Trans­parency of high­est or­der found in ju­di­ciary

The Courier-Mail - - LETTERS -

YOUR Ed­i­to­rial “Ju­di­cial trans­parency vi­tal for open jus­tice” ( C-M, Mar 2) and the re­lated ar­ti­cle on page 11, while rais­ing one sub­stan­tive is­sue, se­ri­ously mis­rep­re­sented the ac­count­abil­ity of the ju­di­ciary.

It is le­git­i­mate to en­ter a de­bate about whether Queens­land ought to leg­is­late for a for­mal process to in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints against ju­di­cial of­fi­cers, such as the dif­fer­ent mod­els ap­pli­ca­ble in the Com­mon­wealth and leg­isla­tive pro­vi­sions re­lat­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tions of com­plaints against fed­eral judges and in NSW. Those mod­els re­spect the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary but pro­vide an ef­fec­tive means to con­sider whether a com­plaint about a ju­di­cial of­fi­cer has sub­stance and how it ought to be ad­dressed. The Ju­di­cial Con­fer­ence of Australia sup­ported such leg­is­la­tion in its 2012 Se­nate sub­mis­sion on the Com­mon­wealth leg­is­la­tion. How­ever, it was wrong to attack the in­tegrity and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the en­tire Queens­land ju­di­ciary. It was false to sug­gest judges were above the law. A re­spon­si­ble news­pa­per should check its facts be­fore pub­lish­ing such sug­ges­tions.

The ju­di­ciary is the most trans­par­ent in­sti­tu­tion in this coun­try. Ev­ery case is heard in public. Ev­ery de­ci­sion of ev­ery ju­di­cial of­fi­cer is given in public with the judge’s or mag­is­trate’s rea­sons. Those rea­sons are open to public scru­tiny and crit­i­cism.

The only ex­cep­tions in­volve cases con­cern­ing chil­dren, con­fi­den­tial mat­ters and na­tional se­cu­rity. There is no lack of ac­count­abil­ity for those in­de­pen­dent, open and rea­soned de­ci­sions. Yes, some­times ju­di­cial of­fi­cers make mis­takes, just as ev­ery­one does, but there are ap­peal courts to cor­rect legal er­rors. Those courts, too, sit and de­cide in public and give their rea­sons for ex­er­cis­ing the ju­di­cial power in the cir­cum­stances of the case.

Your sto­ries over­looked that each case is dif­fer­ent.

Usu­ally par­lia­ments leg­is­late to pro­vide courts with a dis­cre­tion to im­pose a range of sen­tences. That is be­cause they know one size does not gen­er­ally fit all for each of­fence and in­di­vid­ual of­fend­ers have their own cir­cum­stances. For ex­am­ple, it is trite to say that tak­ing an­other per­son’s life is usu­ally among the worst of crimes. But there can be a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween a gang­land mur­der and a killing by a wife who has been abused and beaten for years by the de­ceased as the vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Or­di­nar­ily, jus­tice would re­quire dif­fer­ent sen­tences for those two killers.

There is not nec­es­sar­ily any ex­act prece­dent for a sen­tence, be­cause many vari­able fac­tors arise for the ju­di­cial of­fi­cer to con­sider. The me­dia of­ten sen­sa­tion­alise the end re­sult of a sen­tence. How­ever, un­like the or­di­nary mem­ber of the public who must rely on the me­dia’s ver­sion, the jour­nal­ist was in court and heard, or could read, the rea­sons for the sen­tence. What de­stroys trans­parency is sup­pres­sion from the public by the me­dia of the judge’s rea­sons while crit­i­cis­ing his or her end re­sult.

Bet­ter re­port­ing of the rea­sons for sen­tences would be a good start to the public un­der­stand­ing how the courts came to those re­sults. The Hon Jus­tice Steven Rares, Pres­i­dent, Ju­di­cial Con­fer­ence of Australia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.