At first blink this article has absolutely nothing to do with the O’Farrell Government’s intentions to attack injured workers entitlements. However, I would argue it does highlight the one-dimensional mentality that is driving this government. It’s both damaging and dangerous.
It seems that this Government will stop at nothing to cut costs.
Top magistrate at war with government
THE state’s top magistrate has accused the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, of running a department campaigning to undermine the working conditions of the Local Court judiciary.
The Chief Magistrate, Judge Graeme Henson, wrote to Mr Smith to ”express my disgust at the lack of respect and hence professionalism emanating from the senior levels of your department directed towards the magistracy”.
Judge Henson said the bureaucrats had used misinformation, saying there had been ”palpable errors in information provided from the director-general’s office to the media”. Responding to claims in the media that he demanded an ”extraordinary list of taxpayer-funded perks”, such as $370,000 worth of free travel and increased holidays for NSW’s 135 magistrates, he said the Local Court had increased its workload by 28 per cent since bringing forward the start of the court day from 10am to 9.30am.
”No one should be under any illusion that this campaign (probably effectively) to undermine attempts on my part to improve the working conditions of magistrates is regarded by the members of this court, and by me as contemptible,” he wrote.
A spokesman for Mr Smith yesterday denied there was a campaign within the Department of Attorney General and Justice to undermine the magistracy.
He said departmental figures did not support the proposition of a significant and sustained increase in the overall workload, at least over the past eight years.
Judge Henson said for four years he had requested better-trained and more accountable court support officers to address the administrative bungles plaguing the overstretched system, which presides over most criminal matters in NSW.
The letter, leaked to the legal commentary website Justinian, was written on April 23, four days after The Daily Telegraph published confidential correspondence from Judge Henson to ”bemused senior bureaucrats” about his ”wish list” of perks.
In April the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, accused the judiciary of ”living in a bubble” after a magistrate granted bail to a former bikie boss who allegedly torched a police vehicle. The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed and the Supreme Court’s Justice Peter Garling revoked the bail.
In a thinly veiled warning to the government before the state budget, Judge Henson said its ”one-dimensional drive to reduce costs” was damaging the justice system.
The Justinian website also published a letter to the director-general of the department, Laurie Glanfield, in which Judge Henson said some magistrates believed the media coverage was part of a ”deliberate campaign from within … to derail discussions with government” on magistrates’ working conditions.
He defended his attempts to increase annual leave for magistrates from 27 to 38 days. ”It is ironic that police prosecutors, police officers, Legal Aid solicitors, DPP solicitors all have access to considerably more leave than the magistrate before whom they appear,” he said.
Judge Henson said he was not told travel passes and e-tags for magistrates would cost $370,000, but that the Transport Ministry provided the same entitlements free to superior court judges.
Judge Henson was unavailable for comment. Mr Smith’s spokesman said Judge Henson could continue to have confidence in the department’s senior officials.