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LIV and judiciary speak out against political attacks

LIV and judiciary speak out against political attacks

By Karin Derkley

Courts 

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The Law Institute of Victoria has spoken out strongly against attacks by politicians and the media on Victoria's judges and magistrates over youth crime in the state.

This follows comments made by federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who has been quoted as saying there is a "problem" with "some of the judges and magistrates" appointed by the Victorian government.

LIV president Belinda Wilson said she was “extremely concerned” by the ongoing political attacks on Victorian judges, magistrates and the legal profession.

“These political attacks are totally inappropriate and without foundation,” she said.

“There is no place for political attacks on the judiciary and undermining the independence of our judges and magistrates.

“The community can have absolute trust in the judiciary and the legal profession in Victoria,” Ms Wilson said.

The president of the Judicial Conference of Australia, Justice Robert Beech-Jones, said that the judiciary was being swept up into the political dispute between the federal and Victorian governments over law and order in the state.

He pointed to “one minister”, believed to be the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who has been quoted as saying there is a "problem" with "some of the judges and magistrates" appointed by the Victorian government.

Mr Dutton has said that judges and magistrates appointed by Labor have handed out soft bail decisions. He told Sky News: “There are very soft sentences being imposed and not much deterrence at all being imposed by some of these magistrates and judges”.

Commentators in the media have also accused Victoria's judiciary of being "weak" and disregarding community standards in its judgments.

Justice Beech-Jones said that while individual decisions might be subject to query, a whole-scale attack on the integrity of the judiciary was unwarranted.

"The appropriate policing and legislative response to concerns over these issues are matters for those governments, but personalised attacks on judges and magistrates as opposed to individual decisions is unfair and unwarranted."

"It is unfair in that the judges and magistrates in question cannot respond and undermines the capacity of the judiciary to apply the law impartially."

Others have also spoken out against the attacks.

Liberty Victoria tweeted that Mr Dutton’s attacks on judicial officers undermine democracy and the rule of law. “A robust and independent judiciary is vital to ensure that government agents act within the law. If we politicise and undermine the judiciary then we remove a vital safeguard.”

Former chief justice of the Family Court Alastair Nicholson said that Dutton’s criticism of the Victorian Government’s appointments of “civil libertarians” to the judiciary was “a classic totalitarian approach” and should be strongly rejected by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General.

 


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