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Frustrated Judges should support each other

  • March 6th, 2008

New Zealand’s ever-growing cadre of judges (approximately 9 x faster than population growth over my time in the law) should be less passive. They should develop a mechanism for collective comment on problems like those highlighted by Judge Crosbie. He recently highlighted his lack of any punishment tool to deter scoff-laws who simply will not pay fines and who rightly regard community work sentences as a joke.

The self-anointed in charge of justice policy fend off pressures to reflect the will and common sense of the majority. Sadly they can rely on their critics being isolated and ineffective. Garth McVicar is changing that for victims. He is also the channel for others, but it’s time practical experienced probation officers, prison officers and judges created their own spokesperson systems.

The Police Association does it for Police, albeit with some politically correct filtering.

Constitutionally the matter is ticklish for judges. But the current situation deprives citizens, and MPs of the considered views of some of the people best equipped to comment with information. UK judges sometimes speak strongly and collectively outside their courts (viz the Lord Chancellors proposals to turn the House of Lords into a Supreme Court).

In my view, because of their special position, if they comment publicly,  judges should ensure that they reveal both sides of any argument where there is not unamity among them.

I know that judges at levels above Judge Crosbie have concerns they want to air. It is up to them to find a way to turn useless fulmination to better account.



But could they ever agree on a collective comment?

Because it seems to me that those judges who currently monopolise speaking-out (Boshier and Becroft) mostly reflect the views of the ‘self-anointed’.


Thats why I’d like to see them preparing statements reflecting the strands of thinking among them, not straining to project an unreal consensus.

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