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Sydney Judge Penny Musgrave, an experienced solicitor appointed directly to the bench, has been officially welcomed to the District Court of NSW amid a plethora of new appointments at all levels of the court system.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Judge Musgrave was sworn in at a private meeting with members of the bench in February, but a welcome ceremony was held on Thursday to highlight her exemplary career in criminal law in front of family and distinguished guests.

Judge Musgrave rose to the bench from private practice, having led her own firm since 2016 where she primarily practised in criminal law. Her Honour has more than 35 years’ experience, encompassing roles at the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the NSW Department of Communities and Justice where she was the Director of the former Criminal Law Review Division.

President of the Law Society of NSW, Joanne van der Plaat, spoke warmly of Judge Musgrave’s contribution to criminal law, highlighting her instrumental role in developing the Law Society’s submissions to government on law reform and helping formulate policy positions on “many contentious issues”.

“Your former colleagues have praised your Honour as a brilliant solicitor-advocate; the most supportive of leaders; and a brave defender of the rule of law. At the Law Society, we can personally attest to all these traits and more,” van der Plaat said.

Judge Musgrave spoke with humble relatability about her entrance to the world of law, thanking her family and colleagues for their role in her career. The ceremony, held at John Maddison Tower in Sydney, was also streamed online.

“I was certainly not predestined to be on the Bench. To the contrary, I was quite ambivalent about a legal career… I ticked the box combined law, when my parents, having come to terms with my abject failure at science, advised me that a career reading fiction might be rather difficult and suggested a back-up plan would be worthwhile,” Judge Musgrave said.

“I simply can’t name everyone who has made a difference to me. What I can say is that I’ve been lucky to find a job surrounded by people who share the same values, and who know how important it is to support each other.

“I’ve only been on the Bench for a number of weeks. It’s been a delight. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing, the jury can only see the robes and worrying about bad hair days is completely a thing of the past.”

Speaking at the ceremony, President of the Bar Association Michael McHugh SC said he received “more positive feedback” about Judge Musgrave’s appointment than any before, noting numerous conversations with solicitors now aspiring to the Bench.

President McHugh said Judge Musgrave was “tenacious, intelligent and courageous” in this role where “achievements were many”. Her Honour was involved in implementing the government’s package of legislative reviews responding to alcohol-induced violence including one-punch assaults, reforms of the Surveillance Devices Act that enabled police officers to use body worn cameras, and the introduction of judge-alone trials.

District Court Chief Judge, Justice Derek Price, said the court will benefit from Judge Musgrave’s wide range of experience in criminal law and is looking forward to seeing her “serve the people of this state for many years to come.”

Three new judges for the Supreme Court

Three new appointments have been made to the Supreme Court of NSW, collectively bringing almost a century of experience to their new roles.

Barristers Elisabeth Peden SC and Mark Richmond SC have been appointed as Judges, and Jeremy Kirk SC appointed as a Judge and Judge of Appeal.

“Mr Richmond alone has been practising law for more than four decades with successful cases in the High, Federal and Supreme Courts,” Attorney General Mark Speakman said.

“Dr Peden has also worked on high profile cases in the High, Federal and Supreme Courts and brings with her almost three decades of legal experience, including as a Professor of Law at the University of Sydney.

“Mr Kirk was admitted to the Bar 20 years ago and has practised nationally, in both trials and appeals, including many notable cases. He joins the Court of Appeal, which is widely regarded as the strongest state or territory appellate court in Australia.

“We are fortunate to have this trio of outstanding legal practitioners serve the people of NSW in these important roles in the justice system.”

New appointments to Local Court

The number of magistrates on the Local Court Bench of NSW is now at an “all-time record”, with four new appointments made this week.

There are now 149 magistrates overseeing a caseload equal to 96 per cent of criminal prosecutions and 90 per cent of civil matters before the state’s courts.

These new appointments will bolster the NSW Government’s $56.1 million investment in the state’s busiest court system, helping to deliver justice more efficiently.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said new magistrates Te’res Sia, Mark Whelan, Rana Daher and Rami Attia bring more than eight decades of experience to the bench.

“The appointments of Ms Sia and Mr Whelan fulfil the commitment made in last year’s budget to fund eight additional magistrates to ease the pressure on the Local Court. Ms Daher and Mr Attia are replacing outgoing magistrates,” Speakman said.