The Dominion Post

Judges’ actions in Moana case not inappropri­ate

- Marty Sharpe marty.sharpe@stuff.co.nz

Two senior judges did not act inappropri­ately when contacting a Family Court judge in relation to a part-heard case, the Judicial Conduct Commission­er has found. But he said that guidelines for judges could be made clearer.

Commission­er Alan Ritchie decided to investigat­e after reading an article on Stuff on August 25, which revealed that Judge Peter Callinicos had been contacted by Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu and Principal Family Court Judge Jackie Moran in relation to the part-heard ‘‘Moana’’ case.

Judge Callinicos said the senior judges had wanted to convey concerns from Oranga

Tamariki interim chief executive Sir Wira Gardiner.

He said their actions were inappropri­ate and any communicat­ion would be ‘‘a breach of judicial independen­ce’’.

In a preliminar­y report issued yesterday, Ritchie said he decided to treat the media coverage as a complaint due to ‘‘the perception I have of a growing and wide-ranging concern felt (rightly or wrongly) by parties to proceeding­s, complainan­ts and others in the community about challenges being faced by women and children in the court system’’.

The commission­er sought comment from Judges Taumaunu and Moran.

Judge Taumaunu denied any attempt to direct Judge Callinicos and said that he and Judge Moran wanted to engage with Judge Callinicos about their concerns over his ‘‘incourt conduct’’, not his decision-making.

Judge Taumaunu said he had become involved in concerns with Judge Callinicos when the ‘‘Mrs P’’ court case – which prompted allegation­s that Judge Callinicos had bullied a woman in a Family Court case – was raised in the media.

According to the report, Judge Taumaunu said he had a duty to raise issues of conduct with judges, and Judge Callinicos ‘‘appeared to me to have been engaging in a pattern of bullying behaviour’’.

Judge Moran said there had been numerous complaints about Judge Callinicos and ‘‘they had to be addressed promptly by the Heads of Bench in order to prevent their recurrence and to maintain public confidence in the Court’’.

She said she held monthly meetings with senior Oranga Tamariki staff and those meetings frequently involved discussion about difficulti­es the organisati­on’s Napier office was experienci­ng with Judge Callinicos.

Judge Moran said Oranga Tamariki believed Judge Callinicos’s alleged behaviour was ‘‘seriously underminin­g the confidence of the Napier community and compromisi­ng the safety of children’’.

This was especially so in the ‘‘Moana’’ case, she said. Three social workers involved in the case ‘‘were so badly treated by the judge that they were left feeling mocked and beaten to the extent that psychologi­cal support had to be organised for them,’’ she said.

Ritchie also received a letter from Justice Young of the Supreme Court, who said he had been involved in providing the Heads of Bench advice around how to deal with Judge Callinicos since April.

Justice Young said it was clear the senior judges were not seeking to influence Judge Callinicos and ‘‘given the experience of the three judges, they would have been well-able to discuss Judge Callinicos’ in-court behaviour without encroachin­g in the independen­ce of his decision-making’’.

Justice Young said he had read the transcript­s of the ‘‘Mrs P’’ and ‘‘Moana’’ cases, and ‘‘I saw the interventi­ons of Judge Callinicos in those cases as excessive, partisan (as amounting to crossexami­nation) and, at times, demeaning (for instance as putting down Mrs P to her face or to her witnesses)’’.

Ritchie referred the matter to the Chief Justice and said ‘‘I have confidence that she will ensure that the whole of the circumstan­ces will be subject to appropriat­e scrutiny not just by her but by the judiciary as a whole so that there is a prospect of these crucial issues of judicial independen­ce being fully understood at all levels’’.

‘‘It may be that the Guidelines for Judicial Conduct or other guidance offered to Judges can be reviewed and improvemen­ts made to aspects of interventi­on by Heads of Bench when proceeding­s have not been completed,’’ he said.

Complaints about Judge Callinicos’s behaviour in the ‘Mrs P’ case were dealt with by the Commission in June. Ritchie declined to refer the matter to the Attorney-general and instead referred it to the heads of the High Court and District Court, stating it was up to them what they wished to do.

Judge Callinicos told Stuff he had not been approached by the commission­er.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? Heemi Taumaunu
Heemi Taumaunu
 ?? ?? Peter Callinicos
Peter Callinicos
 ?? ?? Jackie Moran
Jackie Moran

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