McCully Writes To Solicitor General
6 June 2003
Mr Terence Arnold Solicitor-General Crown Law Office P O Box 5012 WELLINGTON
I write to lay a formal complaint with you against the Principal Family Court Judge, Patrick Mahony for his public statements on National Radio on Tuesday 29 April 2003 about a specific case before the Family Court in respect of which he commented on proceedings before the court. I do so in the context that you are threatening to prosecute the Member of Parliament for Nelson, Dr Nick Smith, for contempt of court. It is clear that to the extent that Dr Smith has breached Section 27A of the Guardianship Act, so too has Judge Mahony.
In the course of Judge Mahony’s interview on National Radio (transcript enclosed), he made specific references to proceedings bought under the Act.
“Now, if the Court for example in this case were offering a fixture, a hearing two years ago and the family were not prepared to accept it or unready for it, it would be unfair wouldn’t it, to lay the blame at the door of the court”.
“Where you have a Maori family in particular who say to the court, we want the court processes put on hold so that we can conduct a hui, get our own way in accordance with our own decision making process for families, in accordance with our own traditional and cultural values, the court of course will be very happy to go along with that suggestion”.
In response to “Here you’ve got a case where the parents live in a different part of the country from the custodians so that means access is limited?” Judge Mahony replied, “True. True”.
“The court having to deal with the members of the family on both sides who are involved and having regard to the needs of this particular child, is doing the best it can to reintroduce the child to it’s own side of the family, to the natural parents, brothers and sisters”.
In response to “The child went to the cousin at 15 months old. The child is 6 now. By anyone’s measure that is a good deal of time”. Judge Mahony replied, “It is a good deal of time I agree with you”.
“Too long in the life of a child in the sense that if the child is to be reunited with the child’s own family and I understand that is the aim, then the child has been away from that family for a long time”.
In commenting on re-establishing the child with its own family “That process has been going on and progressing”.
“I am satisfied that the court has done its best to manage the case having regard to the people and the complexities which have arisen in the course of it”.
“I understand there is a fixture allocated for later this month”.
The above statements clearly refer to details of a particular case before the Family Court. The Judge clearly refers to the ethnicity, geographical location, children’s ages, and fixture timetables in relation to the case.
To the extent that Dr Smith is accused of publishing similar details and therefore breaching S27A, so too has Judge Mahony breached that section.
In the interests of seeing Judge Mahony treated on the same basis as my colleague, I am making this formal complaint. I would be pleased to hear what steps you intend to take.