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Chief magistrate says attacks on court 'deplorable'

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Critics of the youth justice system have been given a none-too-subtle swipe from Queensland’s chief magistrate Terry Gardiner.

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At the welcoming ceremony for six new magistrates who were sworn in this week, Gardiner said criticism of the courts relating to the granting of bail to child offenders should be deplored.

There had also be criticism of the courts over the closed hearings of youths which prevent media coverage.

Gardiner referred to it as “mischievous criticism”.

It follows the alleged attack and stabbing of former Wallaby Toutai Kefu and his family at their Brisbane home as well as controversial issues in Townsville relating to youth crime.

Following the Kefu event, several major media organisations also applied to be granted access to attend the first appearance of a 15-year-old boy charged with four counts of attempted murder.

According to Law Society journal, Proctor, Gardiner told the new magistrates that: “You all come to the court at a time when some people, for their own agendas, publicly attack the court, whether it be over bail decisions or criticism for limiting media presence when reporting about children.

“The catchcries that ‘bail is a privilege not a right’, or that ‘the public have a right to know’,” are not expressions found in the Youth Justice Act.

“The court is not and should not be immune from informed criticism, but mischievous criticism that undermines the court’s legitimacy should be deplored.

“Forgotten is the prosecution’s right to review any bail decision if error (by the court) is alleged. A right seemingly never invoked.”

“Being a magistrate is not for the faint-hearted. My advice to you is to act in accordance with your oaths, to make decisions according to law and without fear, favour or affection.”

In Queensland, a presiding magistrate or judge has the discretion to allow media to attend hearings, but only on the conditions that their attendance was prejudicial to the interest of the child.

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