The Law Society of NSW welcomes new Chief Magistrate


President of the Law Society of NSW, Juliana Warner, today congratulated Judge Peter Johnstone on his appointment as the new Chief Magistrate of the Local Court of New South Wales.

Judge Johnstone, who has been the President of the Children’s Court of NSW since 2012, will replace the Hon. Judge Graeme Henson AM. Judge Henson retired on 27 August 2021, after 33 years on the bench, 15 of those as Chief Magistrate.

In welcoming the appointment, Ms Warner said that Judge Johnstone has been a well-respected member of the judiciary for many years.

“As President of the Children’s Court, one of the oldest courts in the land, Judge Johnstone has championed the appointment of specialist magistrates, advocated for prevention, early intervention, diversion and rehabilitation measures that keep children out of juvenile detention and helped strengthen cultural connections for vulnerable young Indigenous children placed in out-of-home care,” Ms Warner said.

“Like the Law Society, Judge Johnstone has expressed concerns about the over-representation of Indigenous people in our state’s criminal justice system, especially Indigenous youth.

“Judge Johnstone helped to establish the Youth Koori Court pilot in Parramatta, he advocated for the $38 million Children’s Court complex in Surry Hills and there are now a record 15 specialist Children’s Magistrates in NSW.

“In presiding over the state’s busiest jurisdiction, Judge Johnstone will be able to draw on his considerable judicial experience and his extensive legal career, including three decades as a solicitor.

“His Honour’s appointment could not come at a more crucial time for the Local Court, as it works to overcome significant delays and backlogs generated by the COVID-19 restrictions.

“My heartfelt congratulations to Judge Johnstone – I know that the state’s 37,000 solicitors would join me in wishing him well in his new role,” Ms Warner said.

Judge Johnstone has previously served on the bench of the District Court, as deputy chair of the Medical Tribunal and as a part-time commissioner of the NSW Law Reform Commission. Prior to taking public office, Judge Johnstone worked as a solicitor for 33 years and held a number of senior positions at Blake Dawson Waldron (now Ashurst), including national chief operating partner and managing partner of the firm’s Sydney and Melbourne offices.

“The legal profession welcomes this appointment and we look forward to continuing the long and productive relationship we’ve enjoyed with the Office of the Chief Magistrate,” Ms Warner said.