A FORMER Port Macquarie magistrate is facing a string of misconduct complaints including remanding an 18-year-old in custody for about an hour for the improper purpose of giving "him a bit of a scare" .
Suspended NSW magistrate Dominique Burns is also accused of trying to influence the police prosecutor to cause further charges to be laid against people, in one case asking: "Are there other charges pending and, if not, why not?".
And she allegedly denied "procedural fairness" in the case of a man accused of stealing a $167 poker machine payout ticket by prompting the revocation of his bail without hearing submissions or giving reasons.
Her barrister Arthur Moses SC said his client accepted she made mistakes that "should not have been made" but contended that her crushing workload of a "tsunami" of cases contributed to mental health issues.
Counsel assisting the Judicial Commission Kristina Stern SC on Monday outlined the claims against Ms Burns, who became a magistrate in February 2015, was appointed to the Port Macquarie Local Court circuit in January 2016, went on sick leave in March 2017 and was suspended in June 2017.
Magistrate Burns began her career as a court officer at Wyong, Belmont and Wallsend in the mid-1980s before being admitted to the bar in 1998.
She was a Newcastle barrister who practiced in Family Law, District and Supreme Court care appeals, Children's Court and some criminal matters.
Prior to being appointed to Port Macquarie, Magistrate Burns presided over the Local Court and Children’s Court in Sydney.
Ms Stern told the three-person panel that they would consider the complaints to form an opinion on whether the matter could justify the NSW parliament considering her removal from office or, if not, a referral back to the Chief Magistrate.
During Ms Burns' 14-month tenure as the sole resident magistrate in Port Macquarie and Kempsey, she had 70 days of assistance or relief when on leave, Ms Stern said.
"I should be absolutely clear - it is fully accepted that this is a very busy local court circuit."
The conduct under review occurred between June 22, 2016 and February 23, 2017, involved 17 cases which fell in seven broad categories of "serious departures from proper standards".
They included misuse of detention powers and imposition of sentences exceeding the maximum penalties for the crimes.
Mr Moses said while the magistrate accepted making mistakes, she denied the claim of "wilful blindness" in that she knew or was uncertain of her powers but made no inquiries to resolve the issues.
Her mental health issues were not being used as an "excuse" but as an explanation, he said.
Ms Burns, whose legal background was not predominantly in criminal law, had two days pre-bench training and worked at a Sydney Local Court where she was helped and guided by more senior magistrates before being appointed to Port Macquarie.
"At the time she did not fully appreciate the degree of mental and physical isolation she would encounter at work and socially at Port Macquarie," Mr Moses said.
At the end of her second month, she realised she was having difficult in coping and sought assistance, but this was denied.
The hearing, which is listed for five days, continues.
Australian Associated Press