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ICJ Victoria Deplores Public Attack on Judicial Independence

PDF of Media Release 13 June 2017

ICJ Victoria deplores the public attack three Commonwealth Ministers have made against the character and independence of Victorian judges.

The Ministers’ statements follow comments made by senior judges in the Victorian Court of Appeal during argument of an appeal brought by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions against the sentence of a terrorist offender.

The Australian today reported one Minister describing the Court as a forum for ‘ideological experiments’.  Another referred to ‘hard-left activist’ judicial appointments in Victoria and the third accused the judges of being ‘more concerned about the terrorists than the community’.

The statements are an outrageous and unfounded attack on the independence and character of Victorian judges.  They are uninformed, dangerous and unfair.  They are uninformed because they reveal a blatant misunderstanding of the judicial process and misrepresent judicial enquiry as judicial opinion. The danger is two-fold. First, it undermines public confidence in the legal system.  Second, there is potential for the separation of powers to be undermined by the perception that by attacking judges, politicians may seek to influence the outcome of a case brought by a Commonwealth agency.  It is unfair, as the judges concerned are unable to respond to correct the mis-statements and character slurs made against them.

The politicians would do well to remember judicial independence exists not to serve the judiciary or the politicians; it exists to serve the people.  Our free society relies on the operation of the rule of law.  The independence of judges is needed to ensure the law treats everyone equally.

No one is above the law, including politicians.

Michael Cahill
Chair
ICJ Victoria