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Goff Using Appeal Court Judges Like Own Officials

Goff Using Appeal Court Judges Like His Own Officials

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks has accused Justice Minister Phil Goff of politicising the Court of Appeal.

“The Minister last night used three Appeal Court Judges as if they were Justice officials. It is constitutionally intolerable to use the Judges in this way. This shows why we still need rights to the Privy Council as a neutral international referee,” Mr Franks said.

Last night the Government held a closed-door briefing to try persuade Green MP Nandor Tanczos to drop his principled objections to a bad amendment to the Crimes Act. It seems the Appeal Court Judges were used in support.

“Party-by-party briefings are an attempt to cobble together a majority excluding parties who are concerned about principle,” Mr Franks said. “The Judges should have insisted any briefing or advocacy by them be open. It should have been arranged under their control and initiative, and involved all justice spokespersons at the same time. Not only would that have protected the vital principle of impartiality, it would have resulted in a better understanding of the issues.

“Each spokesman brings different background to the issues. Nandor Tanczos, trying to get up to speed with legal technicalities, would have been much less vulnerable to misleading or confusing explanations designed simply to soothe him, if he had the benefit of questions to the Judges from spokesman with more knowledge in the area.

Open and independent scrutiny is particularly important on this Bill because Mr Goff’s officials provided incorrect advice to the Select Committee. This Bill is embarassing for the Court of Appeal, as it will change law retrospectively. Two years ago Appeal Court Judges went out of their way to castigate Parliament and ACT MP Patricia Schnauer especially, for alleged retrospectivity in toughening up minimum parole terms for home invaders after Beverley Bouma’s murder. Now they want a retrospective fix to unlawful procedures they adopted for efficiency’s sake.

“The attempt to shut ACT out of finding solutions may have something to do with embarrassment at now promoting retrospective changes.

“I am writing today to the President of the Court of Appeal, whom I respect very much, calling on him to take the initiative and approach each party directly, without being managed by the Minister, to have a combined round table briefing.This Bill goes to the heart of our trust in our appeal system. It should have been approached on a non-party basis. All parties would have wanted to find a solution that did not embarrass the Court. Now the whole process is tainted by political manipulation. I put forward a sound proposal last Thursday to discourage spurious appeals. Mr Goff should not be using the Court of Appeal Judges in an attempt to side-step having to consider it,” Stephen Franks said.

ENDS


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