Magistrates coming ‘home’ to Wangaratta

TWO magistrates with an affinity for Wangaratta have been appointed to sit in North East courts.

John O’Callaghan and Ian Watkins are coming to the region in early January.

They replace the region’s co-ordinating magistrate, Paul Smith, and fellow magistrate Susan Armour, who are returning to Melbourne after about three years in the North East.

Stella Stuthridge will take over the role as co-ordinating magistrate.

Long-time magistrate John Murphy will continue his role, though is nearing the compulsory retiring age of 70.

Mr O’Callaghan, who turns 56 today, was raised in Wangaratta and comes from a well-known family.

He worked as a commercial solicitor for about 20 years, specialising is business law, rather than criminal cases.

But for the past three years, he has been the magistrate presiding at Broadmeadows.

His father Bill was a schoolteacher, councillor, mayor and is a local historian.

Mr Watkins, 53, was a partner in the long-standing Wangaratta law firm McSwineys for 22 years.

His appointment as a magistrate was announced in February 2011.

Attorney-General Robert Clark said at the time that Mr Watkins had a wealth of experience.

Mr Clark said Mr Watkins had practised in the County Court, Children’s Court, Magistrates Court, Family Court, Supreme Court and the Federal Court Magistrates Court in civil, criminal and family law jurisdictions.

“He will bring more than 28 years’ experience in legal practice in rural communities to the Magistrates Court,” Mr Clark said.

Mr Watkins was the first solicitor for many years from a North East practice to be appointed to the court.

Since then, Benalla solicitor and former councillor Peter Dunn has been appointed a magistrate.

Mr Watkins has presided in North East courts, including Wodonga, a couple of times.

A Magistrates’ Support Services spokeswoman said the appointments for Mr O’Callaghan and Mr Watkins would be for three years.

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