Lawyers against plan for judges
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