A Day at the South Australian Courts for our Japanese Law Students

Last week the students in the English Language and Legal Studies Program from Meiji Gakuin University Law School in Tokyo enjoyed a field trip to the South Australian courts.

Accompanied by program coordinator Cornelia Koch and law librarian Paula Everett, the group started its visit at the Supreme Court of South Australia. The Honourable Chief Justice Kourakis welcomed the students and provided them with interesting insights into the way in which the Australian courts work. He placed particular emphasis on the differences between the inquisitorial and adversarial systems of procedure that can be found in Australia and Japan respectively. Another interesting point for the students was the way in which judges in Australia are appointed from the senior ranks of the legal profession, while Japan has career judges. The Chief Justice’s current Associate, Ms Courtney Chow, herself an Adelaide Law School graduate, told the students about the role of a Judge’s Associate, a position that is unknown to the Japanese judicial system.

Ms Chow and the Chief Justice’s Support Officer Mr Grant Ryan then took the group on a tour of the Supreme Court. Students were able to see the judges’ area and enter the beautiful old court rooms through the judges’ entrance. Many photos on the judges’ bench and in the jury box were taken. The group also had the opportunity to see the newly built areas of the Supreme Court, including the modern court room 3. The differences in style between the old and new court rooms were very interesting.

The Supreme Court Library was next on the group’s itinerary. The students had an opportunity to experience a working library for judges and legal practitioners. They also enjoyed flicking through beautiful old books, including old volumes of South Australian legislation with handwritten annotations and deletions.

After the visit to the Supreme Court, Mr Ryan took the group to observe a criminal proceeding in the District Court. The students were lucky to see a full examination of two Crown witnesses. The defendant’s barrister very kindly offered to speak to the students during a break. It was interesting to hear the practical reasons why a defendant may choose to have a criminal matter heard by judge alone, rather than judge and jury.

After a lunch break at the Adelaide Central Market, we were hosted by the Adelaide Magistrates Court. Ms Genevieve Holloway provided the students with an excellent experience. First, we were able to see a number of criminal proceedings in a very busy court room. This included the sentencing of a number of offenders after they had pleaded guilty. The Magistrate’s sentencing remarks were very interesting because the system of sentencing under legislation is different in Japan. The students were also interested in the role of police prosecutors, which are unknown to the Japanese legal system. Following our observation of court proceedings, Chief Magistrate Hribal and Magistrate Dixon answered the students’ questions on the Magistrate Court’s jurisdiction, the specialist courts, including the Nunga Court and the Drug Court, and the appointment of Magistrates compared with that of Justices of the Supreme and District Courts.

Due to the generosity of the Honourable Chief Justice Kourakis and Chief Magistrate Hribal our Japanese students gained wonderful insights into the way in which the South Australian courts operate and had the opportunity to compare this to the system of the administration of justice in Japan. The visit complemented their classes on comparative court procedure beautifully and Adelaide Law School is very grateful to the Chief Justice and Chief Magistrate for providing this opportunity to our Japanese visitors.

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