Entertainment TV Court Justice: Inside Australia’s judicial system

Court Justice: Inside Australia’s judicial system

Court Justice
Australia's Judge Judy shows what happens when bad behaviour meets the law. Photo: Foxtel
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Professional boxer and former NRL player Garth Wood may have felled Anthony Mundine a few years back, but he cops a right hook from Magistrate Jacqueline Milledge in a recent court appearance.

Wood is pleading not guilty to affray after he punched a man in defence of his friend. His case was featured in an excellent new Foxtel CI series, Court Justice, which began on Sunday night.

He is trying to explain, delicately, to Magistrate Milledge some of the threatening words he had heard before he took the action.

“We don’t faint,” she smiles.

So, he dropped the F and C words.

“I’ve heard that before,” she says.

“Thanks darl,” says Wood, as his lawyer cringes.

“Don’t call me darl,” she slugs back at him. “That’s where we will fall out.”

Woods quickly apologises to “Your Honour”.

“That’s a good one,” she says.

He is later acquitted because his actions are deemed appropriate in the circumstances and, perhaps humbled, he leaves court after shaking hands with the police prosecutor, telling her she was only doing her job.

Court Justice
Boxer Garth Wood features in Australia’s new crime show. Photo: Getty

This exchange illustrates the incredible access this series has into Australia’s busiest Magistrate’s Court in Sydney’s Downing Street. And what a slice of life we are treated to.

It’s the first time cameras have been allowed in court in this way and what has resulted is a gripping series, detailing some of the 120 cases heard there every day.

Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson leads a team of 12 magistrates.

He notes they are “not important people, but they do an important job”.

“Putting on the robe reminds you of the importance of the job and the responsibility you have when you walk into a court room.”

In the first episode, we met a woman falsely accused of harassing her neighbour who tendered a fake phone recording as evidence.

A father of three, Timothy Turner is, yet again, before the courts on graffiti and trespassing charges. Judge Chris O’Brien clearly doesn’t believe his defence that, as an artist not a vandal, Turner was merely looking for a blank wall in a railway yard in the middle of the night. That he had no intention of spraying a train.

The judge eyeballs Turner as he delivers his verdict.

“I try to maintain eye contact with them as I talk to them otherwise they won’t be deterred.”

Turner avoids jail but does receive 150 hours of community service, a 15-month good behaviour bond and a $1000 fine.

Judge O’Brien says the Downing Centre is “the real world”.

“What happens here is a snapshot of what is happening in the broader community,” he proclaims.

“My view is that sometimes the court officers here have more knowledge of what’s happening in the real world than those who criticise them for not being in it.”

While this series is filmed in Sydney, perhaps there will be other geographical manifestations very soon. It’s a bit like Judge Judy (but much classier) in the ordinariness of the people we meet and the sometimes horrendous pickles they get themselves into.

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