The Licensing Court

Prior to 1967 the Licensing Court operated through a series of Licensing Districts, with each district having its own Court.

The Court was comprised of a Special Magistrate who was only obliged to sit as the Licensing Court once a year to consider the applications that had been lodged over that period in the relevant district.

In 1967 a Royal Commission conducted by Mr Keith Sangster QC (later Justice Sangster) and assisted by Mr Len King QC (later Chief Justice King) made a raft of recommendations to modernise the approach to liquor licensing in South Australia. Amongst other things that included a recommendation for the establishment of a single dedicated court covering the whole State that should be able to sit whenever and wherever it saw fit.

Acting upon that recommendation the Licensing Court came into being in September 1967. From that time it has acted in the way that Mr Sangster expected it would, that is: “having all the normal judicial attributes of being a court of record, presided over by a judge or equivalent, dealing with questions before it upon sworn testimony in open hearings, exercising discretions according to judicial practice, and subject in appropriate cases to appeals to higher courts.”

Although the legislation providing for the Court has been reviewed and changed from time to time the Licensing Court has been continuously in existence since that time.

When initially formed the Court was provided with rule making powers and the enabling Act made provision for the position of Clerk of the Court.

Those powers and that office lapsed in 1985 upon the enactment of the Liquor Licensing Act 1985. That Act made provision for the position of Liquor Licensing Commissioner. As a result both the Commissioner and the Court became licensing authorities. Each was provided with designated powers and responsibilities.

When the Office of Licensing Commissioner was established the Court and the Commission were co-located and the Commission provided all of the administrative support to the Court.

Upon the retirement of a dedicated Licensing Court Judge, the work of the Court was allocated to various District Court Judges and the work of the Court was generally conducted at the Sir Samuel Way Building. As a result the administrative support to the Court was partially supplied by the District Court and by the Office of Liquor and Gambling.

Pursuant to the current act, the Liquor Licensing Act 1997, the Court’s powers and responsibilities are such that it hears applications for disciplinary actions, reviews of the decisions of the Commissioner for Liquor and Gambling and applications referred by the Commissioner to the Court.

Following their appointments as Judges of the Licensing Court in November 2010, Judge Jennings and Judge Gilchrist assumed control of the Licensing Court on 31 January 2011 and since that time all new matters have been conducted by them within the premises of the Industrial Relations Court at the Riverside Centre. This initiative resulted from discussions with the Attorney-General and Chief Judge Worthington to assist in relieving the workload of the Judges at the District Court.

Upon the relocation of the Court it was resolved to vest the sole administrative responsibility of the Court to Judge Gilchrist, as the Licensing Court Judge. That designation took effect from 5 April 2012. In addition to the administrative responsibility the Licensing Court Judge is empowered to make Rules of the Court.

Rules have since been promulgated. They provide, amongst other things, for the creation of the positions of Clerk, undertaken by Ms Sharon Henderson and Deputy Clerk of the Court. The Clerk of the Court is responsible for maintaining the records of the Court, assisting the Licensing Court Judge with the administration of the Court and acting as the point of reference in connection with communications with the Court. The Rules also provide for the provision of Practice Directions as well as prescribed forms. The Rules, Practice Directions and prescribed forms are published on this website. All decisions concerning reviews of the decisions of the Commissioner and applications referred by the Commissioner are published on the Austlii website: All decisions concerning disciplinary matters are available for distribution from the Office of Clerk of the Court.

All enquiries and any communications with the Court should, in the first instance, be conducted through the Clerk of the Court.