Asylum seekers await court in Nauru over riot charges after magistrate Peter Law deported

Asylum seekers charged with rioting on Nauru are among almost 80 people waiting to appear in court following the deportation of the island nation's only magistrate.

Newly appointed resident magistrate Andrew Jacobsen, a Melbourne lawyer, has stood down 77 criminal cases for mention hearings on March 4, with 16 involving asylum seekers charged over a riot at Nauru's detention centre, a court list shows.

Most of the cases involve Nauruans facing charges which include manslaughter, grievous bodily harm and driving under the influence. All defendants were previously released on bail. Seven other cases, including two involving asylum seekers, have been stood down without a fixed date.

The Nauruan government sacked and deported its only magistrate, Australian Peter Law, last month after he issued two injunctions restraining the government from deporting two residents without giving them any reason or right to challenge the action.

It accused Mr Law of being ''drunk and disorderly'', derelict in his duty, and of improper conduct towards staff, which Mr Law denies.

Mr Law said no cases had been listed for the court this month, despite there being ‘‘plenty of capacity’’ for hearings: ‘‘It is of concern because it’s an almost unmanageable list and these matters should be listed for hearing,’’ he said.

‘‘It means the court isn’t functioning or operating properly.

‘‘The current magistrate isn’t listing anything for hearing. I have no idea [why]... I’ve never met the man, I don’t know him at all, but anyone who takes on a position like that should have the capacity to hear cases.’

’Mr Law said this was unsustainable: ‘‘You can’t run a justice system without having hearings.’’

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that officials met with Mr Law on Wednesday “to provide his perspective on issues surrounding termination of his employment in Nauru. The Australian government continues to work through the broader issues with the Government of Nauru.”

Nauru’s President Baron Waqa and Resident Magistrate Andrew Jacobsen have not responded to a request for comment.

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The story Asylum seekers await court in Nauru over riot charges after magistrate Peter Law deported first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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