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Sydney litigator Penny Musgrave will join barrister Peter McGrath SC in crossing the courtroom floor in February to become the newest members of the District Court bench.

The two new judge appointments were yesterday announced by NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman, who welcomed the “wealth of skills and knowledge” of the pair. He said Musgrave and McGrath were among the “state’s most accomplished lawyers”, and between them would bring almost 75 years of legal experience to the bench.

Traditionally, it has been rare for practising solicitors to make the direct leap to District Court Judge – most become a barrister or Local Court magistrate first. Musgrave told LSJ she felt the appointment “recognises the valuable skills of a solicitor as “a technician who is organised, who can work with people and who has a commitment to the rule of law, to social justice and the community”.

Law Society of NSW President Juliana Warner noted the appointment of Musgrave – a female solicitor originally from regional NSW, who went to high school in Armidale – was momentous.

“Solicitors play a valuable role in the community and in providing access to justice and I am happy to see this contribution reflected in today’s appointments,” President Warner said.

“Penny Musgrave has worked in both Commonwealth and State jurisdictions for more than 30 years and is considered one of our state’s most experienced criminal law solicitors and legislative advisors. She has made a significant contribution to the legal profession and will bring a broad perspective to her new role as a District Court judge.”

Musgrave has practised in a range of legal settings, including the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Justice and NSW Sentencing Council and DNA Review Panel.

The second new appointee, McGrath, is a leading Sydney barrister who took silk in 2014 after practising as a solicitor with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and becoming a NSW Crown Prosecutor in 2012. He has been the NSW Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions since 2018 and served as the Acting DPP for periods in 2019 and 2021.

“Mr McGrath’s legal career spans almost 40 years, culminating with his role at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as Deputy Director and periodically as Acting DPP. He has also practised at the private Bar as well as being a NSW Deputy Senior Public Defender,” Speakman said.

The new judges will be sworn in in early February. McGrath will commence on 7 February, replacing Judge Stephen Norrish QC who retired on 22 May; while Musgrave will commence three days later to replace Judge Helen Syme who retires on 20 December.