Australian judges are not known for their sensitivity and compassion, especially when dealing with victims of violent crime. In fact some of the remarks from the bench have led many to believe the judiciary is so out of touch with community standards, a little sensitivity training may be in order. Take a look at these blunders from the bench and judge for yourself.
County Court Judge Michael Kelly (Victoria) describes a victim impact statement from a man who was assaulted at the age of 13 as a “waste of time”. Judge Kelly then remarked, “He [the victim] wouldn’t have done well in a British public school in the 30’s. He says this will haunt him until he’s 40.”
In sentencing one of the killer’s of 14 year old James Godden who was tortured before being murdered by a young couple in Western Australia, Justice Kevin Parker (WA) said James “could have suffered a far worse fate”.
County Court Judge John Barnett (Victoria) overturned a child pornography conviction because he couldn’t be sure the images depicted were of children. When handing down his decision Judge Barnett said, “My experience is that I can’t pick the age of children.”
District Court Judge Sarah Bradley (Qld) came under fire late last year when she suspended the sentences of 3 adults involved in the gang rape of a 10 year old girl in a remote Aboriginal community. She also refused to record convictions against 6 juveniles involved in the rape. During sentencing Judge Bradley remarked that the girl “probably agreed to have sex” with all 9 defendants.
Justice Derek Bollen (SA) told a jury during a rape case that a husband is entitled to use “rougher than usual handling” to force himself on his wife.
Back in 1993 County Court Judge Bland (Vic) said in a rape case, “it does happen, in the common experience of those who have been in the law as long as I have anyway, that no often subsequently means yes”.
Recently the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, Jeremy Rapke QC “suggested there was a wider problem with judicial attitudes to victims of sexual assault” (The Age, 18 January 2008). Mr Rapke’s comments have reignited the debate about the treatment of victims of violent crime by the courts, especially victims of sexual assault, who are much more likely to be the target of these insensitive comments from the bench.
So should we send the judiciary back to the class room? Absolutely.