Lawyers against plan for judges

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - CRAIG DUN­LOP

A PRO­POSAL to let Ter­ri­tory judges keep work­ing for two more years has lit­tle jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and could prove coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, lawyers say.

At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Natasha Fyles in­tro­duced a bill to par­lia­ment in the year’s last sit­tings, which, if passed, would al­low judges, the Solic­i­torGen­eral and the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions to stay in their roles un­til 72, two years longer than cur­rently al­lowed.

Ms Fyles told par­lia­ment older judges were “in a bet­ter po­si­tion to con­trib­ute given their wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence”.

That jus­ti­fi­ca­tion has been queried by the Crim­i­nal Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion and the Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, whose pres­i­dent Miles Craw­ley SC said the cur­rent re­tire­ment age of 70 was “work­ing rea­son­ably well”.

De­spite the com­pul­sory re­tire­ment age, re­tired judges fre­quently sit part-time for years after they re­tire.

Crim­i­nal Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion NT pres­i­dent Marty Aust said the com­mu­nity might be bet­ter off it older judges were re­placed.

“It’s a tax­ing job, it wears on a per­son, and many peo­ple who have sat for a sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod have contributed as much as they have to con­trib­ute,” he said.

Push­ing back the re­tire­ment age of Supreme Court judges to 72 will save more than $2.5 mil­lion by de­lay­ing the age at which re­tired judges can be­gin claim­ing their life- time pen­sion of more than $260,000 a year, a Depart­ment of At­tor­ney-Gen­eral and Jus­tice doc­u­ment shows.

Mr Craw­ley said the bar as­so­ci­a­tion did not have a firm view on whether judges should re­tire at 70 or 72.

“Cer­tainly in the Lo­cal Court, it is not un­usual for ju­di­cial of­fi­cers to be ap­pointed in their 40s and 50s,” he said.

“Whether they then re­main for, say, 20 years or 22 years will have no ap­pre­cia­ble ef­fect on the turnover of ju­di­cial of­fi­cers in the longer term.”

He said it “may well be the case” that al­low­ing judges to work longer would be “re­ceived more favourably” if par­lia­ment in­tro­duced changes to pro­vide stronger over­sight of judges’ con­duct.

Those changes were first de­tailed by Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Michael Grant after the NT News de­tailed a se­cret re­port show­ing more than a decade of im­proper con­duct by Alice Springs Judge Greg Borchers.

None of the changes Chief Jus­tice Grant flagged in a speech in Fe­bru­ary have been placed be­fore par­lia­ment.

“It’s a tax­ing job, it wears on a per­son” MARTY AUST CRIM­I­NAL LAWYERS

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