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Judicial Complaints Lay Observer Appointed

Former Justice Secretary David Oughton has been appointed as the Judicial Complaints Lay Observer. The first Lay Observer, Sir John Robertson, has resigned for health reasons.

The Judicial Complaints Lay Observer is a new position, created this year to allow for the independent review of the handling of complaints about the conduct of members of the judiciary. The Lay Observer handles situations where the conduct only of judges is involved, not their decisions.

Mr Oughton's appointment is interim. A full-term appointment will be made after expressions of interest in the position are sought through advertising.

Attorney General Margaret Wilson said that Sir John had begun the work of the Judicial Complaints Lay Observer with characteristic skill and determination.

Margaret Wilson said Sir John's appointment as Judicial Complaints Lay Observer was the latest role in a long history of service to the people of New Zealand. He was appointed Ombudsman for New Zealand in 1984 and in 1986 became Chief Ombudsman, a role he held until 1994. Sir John was also President of the world body of Ombudsmen - the International Ombudsman Institute - from 1992 to 1994. He was Secretary for Justice from 1979 -1982 and Secretary of Defence from 1969 - 1979.

"Sir John's appointment to the role of Lay Observer underscored the importance of the position and the seriousness with which the work of the Lay Observer is viewed by the Judiciary and the Government," said Margaret Wilson.

"I'm pleased that Mr Oughton will be able to take up the role and continue dealing with the cases already being looked at by Sir John".


Background – complaint procedures

Members of the public who have a complaint about the behaviour of a judge must make their complaint in writing to the relevant Head of Court. If the Head of Court decides that the complaint does not have substance, the complainant may refer the matter to the Lay Observer. The Lay Observer has the power to review the complaint, the way it was processed, any response from the Judge, and any other matters that may be relevant. If the Lay Observer considers that a decision not to pursue the complaint should be reviewed, the Lay Observer can request the relevant Head of Court to reconsider it.

A booklet, Judicial Complaints Process is available. It gives a full description of the complaints process. The booklet is on-line at

http://www.justice.govt.nz/pubs/reports/2001/judicial_complaints/index.html

or

http://www.courts.govt.nz/publications/judicial_complaints.pdf

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