Tourist com­plains about ‘bul­ly­ing’ judge

The Southland Times - - News - Stuff re­porters

A Cana­dian woman who says an In­ver­cargill judge bul­lied her into plead­ing guilty, will make a for­mal com­plaint about him.

Heather Glea­son-Beard says she mostly wanted to put the court case be­hind her, but she also wanted to en­sure it didn’t hap­pen to any­one else. Her con­vic­tion was quashed for in­jur­ing a man in a Queen­stown bar with reck­less dis­re­gard for his safety, af­ter the Court of Ap­peal found a mis­car­riage of jus­tice had oc­curred. De­spite Judge Mark Callaghan hav­ing good in­ten­tions, Glea­son-Beard’s guilty plea was the re­sult of the judge’s in­ter­ven­tion which over­bore her de­ci­sion and the right to have a jury de­cide the case, the court found.

Glea­son-Beard, 26, was charged af­ter an in­ci­dent on July 9, 2017, in a Queen­stown bar when she took of­fence at com­ments made by an­other pa­tron about the size of her breasts.

She said she had in­tended to just throw the con­tents of her drink at him, but the glass con­nected with his face and cut his top lip. He did not want med­i­cal treat­ment but said his tooth was chipped.

On the morn­ing Glea­son-Beard’s trial was due to start in the In­ver­cargill Dis­trict Court on charges in­clud­ing wound­ing with in­tent to in­jure, in a pri­vate ses­sion the judge per­sisted in say­ing he doubted she had a de­fence.

With­out credit for a guilty plea, Glea­son-Beard was likely to go to jail, the judge said.

She felt bul­lied and ended up plead­ing guilty to a less se­ri­ous charge to avoid the pos­si­bil­ity of jail, and was sen­tenced to 100 hours com­mu­nity work and to pay $5000 to the man who was cut. She com­pleted the sen­tence be­fore she re­turned to Canada in May.

The Court of Ap­peal found the guilty plea was the re­sult of the judge’s in­ter­ven­tion.

The trans­gres­sion was par­tic­u­larly se­ri­ous, given the lawyer’s ef­forts to re­sist the judge’s ap­proach, the Court of Ap­peal said.

Glea­son-Beard said she would write to the Ju­di­cial Con­duct Com­mis­sioner about Judge Callaghan’s court.

A spokesman for Chief Dis­trict Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said she was un­able to com­ment if the mat­ter was the sub­ject of a com­plaint to the Ju­di­cial Con­duct Com­mis­sioner. The com­mis­sioner re­ceives and as­sesses com­plaints about judges, but can­not af­fect the le­gal­ity or cor­rect­ness of a judge’s de­ci­sion on any pro­ceed­ings.

The num­ber of com­plaints dropped from 177 in 2017 to 154 for the year ended July 2018, but com­plaints about Dis­trict Court judges rose from 57 to 76.

The com­mis­sioner’s re­port noted a spot­light on judge’s bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour to­wards lawyers, but said such com­plaints were few and far be­tween but not un­heard of.

Be­fore 2018 some bul­ly­ing com­plaints were re­ferred to the head judge of the court con­cerned.

In a speech in 2017, the coun­try’s top judge, Chief Jus­tice Dame Sian Elias, had ques­tioned whether judges were rush­ing to get guilty pleas ahead of the in­ter­ests of jus­tice.

She ac­knowl­edged the sav­ings in time and cost if guilty pleas were en­tered early, and re­duced sen­tences were an in­duce­ment.

But she cau­tioned against ‘‘in­ac­cu­racy’’ in guilty pleas due to a cal­cu­la­tion of risk or sim­ply to put an end to un­cer­tainty.

Judge Mark Callaghan

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