ETHICS CENTRE LEVELS NO BLAME IN CARMODY AFFAIR

Written on the 4 June 2015 by Jenna Rathbone

ETHICS CENTRE LEVELS NO BLAME IN CARMODY AFFAIR

AN ethics expert says criticism should not be laid upon those embroiled in the Queensland Supreme Court controversy and believes all involved are acting for the sake of maintaining and enhancing confidence in the judiciary.

Looking from the outside in, St James Ethics Centre's executive director Doctor Simon Longstaff (pictured below) says he believes both Justice Tim Carmody and his challengers have a genuine desire to preserve and better the justice system. 

"One has to assume that everybody involved, whether it is the Chief Justice or his critics, have a genuine concern for the quality of justice, and although they may have a difference of opinion, that they are all in their own way taking a principled approach," says Longstaff.

"(If) any single judge has an apprehension that the conduct of the Chief Justice or the quality of his leadership is having an adverse effect on the perception of the court and if they believe objectively that there are issues of concern, as a matter of individual conscious they have to act.

"I don't think you can criticise any judge if as a matter of conscious they believe they need to act for the sake of maintaining and  enhancing confidence in the judiciary and therefore in the rule of law."

However, Longstaff says the apparent secret recordings cause an issue from an ethical point of view.

It is reported that Justice John Byrne secretly used his phone to record a heated conversation with Carmody about a potential court case and it is believed Carmody refers to his colleagues as "scum".

"The one thing that I have seen that raised an issue is the recording of a conversation that might otherwise have been thought to have been private for subsequent use," says Longstaff.

"Now that doesn't in any way take away from proper concern about what might be considered intemperate language in relation to other members of the bench which have been displayed by the Chief Justice.

"But he may have been inclined to a more colourful term of phrase if he believed this was in a private setting and perhaps he wouldn't have done if he realised this was for wider consumption.

"Any time you record a conversation without a person knowing, they are going to feel quite reasonably aggrieved that the crucial information was not available to them."

It has now been 10 months since Carmody was controversially appointed as Chief Justice by the LNP Government causing ongoing tensions with senior members of the bench.

Carmody recently said he is willing to leave the office of Chief Justice if it is in the overall best interests of Queenslanders and a condition of his resignation is that the government undertake a reform agenda including a judicial commission.

Carmody was expected to outline his 'vision for change' today at a legal conference on Hamilton Island however his wife, acting Magistrate Robyn Carmody, was rushed to hospital for "neurological testing" and the speech has been postponed.

More than 10 Brisbane law firms were contacted by Brisbane Legal for comment on the Carmody debate, with only one willing to speak on the record.

Quinn & Scattini director Russell Leneham says he just wants the judicial process to operate smoothly and to have judges appointed who are held in the highest regard by the profession.

"In my opinion, there are and were many suitable candidates for Chief Justice among the judges of the Supreme Court, and one of them should have been preferred for the position," he says.

"A commission for making judicial appointments might be a good idea, depending on the detail of how it would work."

Leneham adds that the situation with the Brett Peter Cowan appeal and allegations of bias could have been handled better.

"It is not an insult to a judge to raise concerns over perceptions of bias," he says.

"Nor was it improper of the President of the Court of Appeal to raise matters that had come to her attention."

Leneham says as for the possible resignation of Carmody, it "simply should not and cannot have strings attached".

 
Author: Jenna Rathbone
About: Jenna Rathbone is a Queensland-based journalist who writes on a range of issues including business and property affairs and social issues.
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