Last Thursday at Parliament House the Chief Justice of NSW did something quite unprecedented. His Honour held a “Sentencing Symposium”. The Chief Justice together with a number of Supreme Court judges held a Seminar to help MP’s, members of the media, and members of the public understand the judicial decision making when sentencing an offender.
It is rare in our Westminster system of government for judges appear in the general public, let alone Parliament House to explain principals of law that they are bound to follow. It is usual for the Attorney General to do so on behalf of the government. Informed media commentators often accurately and critically analyse the law and court decisions, and legal experts are interviewed regularly, all to give the public accurate information to enable them to make their own judgment.
In the last few months with the public frustrated at the government’s lack of response to “alcohol fueled violence”, attention was diverted by the government for political reasons, into a personal attack on judges. Fueled by a Premier who outrageously told judges to “man up”, Liberal MP’s calling the judges “left wing judges”, "who ignore victims", with some press commentary have suggesting that the sentencing process can be reduced to s simple equation.
The Chief Justice and his brother judges could have saved their breath. The only response by the Premier and his government was to rush into parliament the Legislative Council amendments to the Crimes Amendment (Intoxication) Bill 2014 and attack personally anyone, any MP, and any institution that dared oppose his quiet extraordinary approach.
It is not easy to be the Leader of a government. A Premier is blamed for every government failing either real or perceived. It is why the public elects governments. It is to the Leader of the government the public complains or seeks an explanation. Not only is a Premier required to lead, it is also his or her responsibility to preserve and protect the “Westminster System” of government, the institutions of democracy that are based on the “Doctrine of Separation of Powers.” MP’s are only elected temporarily. They are trustees of the democratic institutions that they must hand over, enhanced, to succeeding generations.
It is one thing to gain a political advantage by a decision, it is quite another to do so by denigrating the judicial arm of government. It is essential for the rule of law that the public maintains confidence in the judicial arm of government.
I genuinely believe the conduct of the government of the government of the day, the Premier of the day, and the Attorney General of the day to have been grossly improper. My contribution to this Bill can be viewed here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NDHRqwuPu8