Common Complaints against Magistrates and Judges: Case Studies

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By Kieran Adair and Ugur Nedim

People who are sent to court are supposed to be entitled to a fair hearing, regardless of the magistrate or judge’s mood, or their personal opinions or prejudices. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case in our busy court system.

While it is often possible to appeal unfair rulings to a higher court, those who have experienced unfair treatment at the hands of a judicial officer are also able to lodge a complaint to the Judicial Commission.

The Commission plays an important role in ensuring magistrates and judges behave appropriately when they are presiding over court cases.

Commission’s powers

While the Commission does not have the authority to discipline judicial officers, or review their decisions, it can refer adverse findings to the Chief Magistrate or the Conduct Division.

The Commission can recommend formal counselling, or even that parliament consider removing the officer in serious cases.

Making a complaint

Those who are making a complaint are required to submit a form to the Commission which gives details of the judge or magistrate, the date and location of the court hearing and the unfair treatment they received.

The complaint must be signed in the presence of a Justice of the Peace, or other authorised person.

In carrying out its inquiry, the Commission can examine court transcripts, sound recordings, and any other relevant materials, before receiving the views of the magistrate or judge in question, and ultimately making and sending any recommendation to the Chief Magistrate or Conduct Division for further consideration.

The Commission can decide to dismiss the complaint without making a recommendation.

The Commission recently published a series of case studies of the most common complaints received, along with its actions following investigation.

Here are some of them:

 No appeal power

Complaints are often received from those who believe a magistrate or judge made the wrong decision during their court case.

The Commission does not have the power to review those decisions – its focus is on whether the judicial officer behaved fairly and appropriately during the court process.

In one instance, a self-represented defendant in an apprehended violence order (AVO) case, complained that the magistrate had ignored her side of the story.

After reviewing sound recordings of the proceedings, the Commission dismissed the complaint on the basis that the magistrate had indeed allowed her to present evidence.

It informed the defendant of its inability to review the magistrate’s decision, as Judicial Officers Act 1986 requires the Commission to summarily dismiss complaints if an avenue of appeal or review is available.

The Commission advised the defendant that she could seek an appeal in the District Court if it were filed within the allowed time period – which is 28 days, or up to 3 months with ‘leave’ (permission from the District Court).

Acting inappropriately

Another common complaint received is that the judicial officer acted inappropriately, either by ignoring court process or acting in a biased manner.

In one AVO case, a man complained to the Commission that the magistrate acted in biased manner by discounting his evidence. After reviewing sound recordings and exhibits, the Commission ruled there was no misconduct and dismissed the complaint.

This was due to the fact that magistrates are permitted to prefer the evidence of one party over another, which is what the Commission found had occurred in the man’s case.

In another complaint, a man alleged that a magistrate had made several inappropriate comments concerning his country of origin.

The Commission ruled that these comments were indeed inappropriate and referred the matter to the Chief Magistrate for further consideration.

Concerns about accountability

The right to a fair trial is a fundamental tenet of the criminal justice system, and judicial officers are expected to behave in an impartial and professional manner when dealing with court cases.

The Judicial Commission is meant to act as a safeguard against misconduct by judges and magistrates, and ensure they act in a manner appropriate to their powerful position.

However, the accountability mechanisms for judicial officers have been criticised for a number of reasons – including that the Commission is essentially policing its own members, that it has no power to directly discipline judicial officers, that those with the power to discipline (eg the Chief Magistrate or Justice) are policing their own, and that it is rare for magistrates or judges are actually disciplined, let alone dismissed.

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2 Comments

  1. Stacey judge

    I was crucified for nothing. The judge and icl. Icl done my changeovers and then split up 3 little children disgrace

  2. Allen Percival

    Hi There,
    On New Year’s Eve I rang 000 three times (9.03pm, 11.03pm, 3.46am from 0437875721). I was genuinely fearing for my life as my neighbour who had been drinking alcohol all day was firing a high powered rifle across the roof of my home in the township of Yetman NSW (2410).

    In 2007 I was arrested while drinking a coffee in my front yard. I then died at Inverell watch house in the cubicle at the dock from carbon monoxide poisoning, it took ambulance officers 31 minuets to revive me. The watch house footage and audio is not available to me, but NSW police regularly tell me that they are often enjoying this video footage.
    I have since this event been diagnosed with PTSD and am on a disability pension for this.

    NSW Police refuse to collect the evidence from Telstra nuisances calls in Manila held on my behalf. Telstra was so annoyed with the person stalking me via my phone in relation to paedophilia that they put a tap on my phone immediately free of charge after reviewing my phone log.
    Over the following weeks this person was caught on three occasions calling me 4 times over about two hours in the middle of the night. Everything was documented as it happened and I have a full record of what this person said to me.
    Apparently this never happened!
    Please call 1800805996 in order to retrieve the evidence held by Telstra for my defence, file reference number is 1403130.
    Also in order to defend the new charges I would like a copy of this persons phone log for New Year’s Eve as I believe strongly that NSW police were communicating with him over the course of the evening.
    In order to protect this sick person NSW police began changing me for things I had not done, how do you defend yourself against something you haven’t done?
    NSW police are wrongly spreading rumours that I am a pedophile and drug dealer, this is untrue. NSW Police unlawfully loaded my cattle on trucks and sent them to an address unknown to me with NO paperwork at all. I lived in my car with my dogs and horses for several months until I could arrange an alternative. After the death of Dennis Ferguson (Australia’s most advertised paedophile) I learned that NSW Police had moved my cattle to the property of his younger sister. I strongly believe this was done in order to have me associated with the paedophile industry. About the same time two Yetman locals,Inverell Shire council staff wrote “PERCIE THE PEDO” on a huge granite bolder on the side of the Bruxner Hwy near Yetman .5m high letters with fluro pink road marker paint.
    NSW police have wrongfully taken out an AVO against myself for this offending person, saying to me “ while they are looking at you they are not looking at us”

    I was again arrested while tending my garden at my home and taken to Inverell watch house on the (10/1/19) I have apparently breached the AVO the NSW police wrongfully hold on me.
    Apparently I have distress this person by phoning 000 when he was firing a large bore rifle over the roof of my home while drunk and I was genuinely in fear for my life. NO police attended the scene over the course of the night or at all until I was arrested on the 10/1/19.

    I have video footage of the local police officers two teenage daughters going past my home in the Yetman community bus with the Yetman cricket team hanging out the windows banging on the side of the bus while screaming out I am a pedophile who does sick things to his own children.
    This is untrue!

    I have a 31 minute audio recording of this Yetman police officer dragging a very unwell 64 year old man from my home by the throat and telling him that he was going to put him in jail if he ever came near me again. This man was the only witness to the eight (8) persons who had just turned up at my home screaming at me I was a pedophile going into great detail about what they think I do to my children. There main aim was to enrage me enough to leave my property, which I did not.The person I hold the phone tap evidence on was one of the eight he was also the person who was firing a large bore rifle over my home on New Year’s Eve and has an AVO against myself for something I didn’t do.

    Because of this constant, continuous and ongoing behaviour by NSW Police and Solicitors I now live alone as my partner of 32 years has now left me.
    Please help me I am 59 years old and have done NOTHING wrong.

    I have been ordered to attend the Inverell courthouse on the 24/1/19 and have been told I will be going to jail for several years. I have done nothing wrong.

    The magistrate has been tainted by NSW Police.
    The last time I attended his court he refused to even look at the brief I provided clearly showing criminal behaviour,when it was obvious he had not looked at the brief I asked if he had done so and he said that he had not.
    But he still placed an AVO on me and told me that I was brought to his court again on this matter I would be going to jail.
    Once I am incarcerated I will loose my disability pension, when released if I survive (Pet Lennon NSW Police told me that he was going to put me in Glen Innis prison and have me fuc&ed up the ass like an old chook).
    I will be given a disability Newstart allowance 1/2 what I currently receive. I then would be unable to maintain my mortgage forcing foreclosure and the auction of my home. This is the wish of the obscenely wealthy well connected X police mans widow who built this house I purchased 19 years ago. My home backs onto the Macintyre river in Yetman and is highly sort after, I purchased the property through a private agreement.
    Many local people already thought they would own this property so they have engaged in a terra campaign over the past 17 years. I have had 2 very quiet children’s ponies killed in my yard, an 11.5 year old cat shot on my back steps, an 11 year old Rhodesian ridgeback dog baited in my yard. While I was away for a few days someone put 12 bore goats mostly with twins into my house yard eliminating my beautiful gardens. I could keep going but I’m guessing you have the picture.
    Please I need help I have not had legal representation the last two times in court on this matter, I need to have this matter moved to a higher court.

    Allen John Percival
    22/10/1959. (0437875721)

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