Queensland; Perfect one day, bizarre the next.

Tom Collins was sent to the cells after twice calling Magistrate Matthew McLaughlin “mate” during a hearing last week. The magistrate objected ordering Collins to address him as “sir or your honour”, the defendant replied “okay mate” and was sent for a stint in the cells.

This followed another incident in Toowoomba, where a magistrate hauled two tradesmen before the court for making too much noise, and threatened to charge them with contempt.

This reminds me of Zucker’s take on Barbara Boxer:

Labor councilor Paul Tully has called on Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Butler to introduce annual anger management classes for all Queensland magistrates. I guess, Paul’s a statist so it is only to be expected that he will come up with a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

It is generally a good idea to treat people with a degree of courtesy, as you are more likely to receive the same back. This includes police and magistrates, who are after all, in a position to make pricks of themselves and in the odd case, seem to like doing so.

In a case like this it is difficult to assess whether the guy was actually being disrespectful, or whether he is just one of those people who call everyone mate. The public when addressing a magistrate are in the main not there of their own free will, nor by invitation. They are usually there because they are ordered to be there with at least implied threats, even on jury duty.

With this in mind, they should understand that they are forcing the public into their world which is designed their way, and which many of us consider to be a rather silly world from a bygone era. I mean frocks and wigs in the present day?

People who deal with the public by authority have to lighten up a bit and accept the public as they find it, we are not obliged to abide by their perceptions of what we should be. Courts should be respected, but they should also try to deserve that respect.

4 thoughts on “Queensland; Perfect one day, bizarre the next.

  1. I know what she means. I am a hard worker, and a public servant. Every time someone turns up, there I am, hardly working!

  2. Hey, I was watching that Barbara Boxer clip for 60 seconds before realizing it was a take off!

    I really hate to be put in the position of defending the modern judiciary but you do need to maintain respect in court room situations.
    Not because those members worked hard to get where they are but because of the nature of what it is. A public forum type place where serious decisions are made. And this forum definitely has to be controlled by someone in authority, who most importantly has to be respected.
    We might address someone we randomly meet on the street as “mate” but who goes into an office or home and addresses a new acquaintance as such instead of their name or title?

    Personally I think the point was made well in the film “My Cousin Vinny” with Fred Gwynne as the judge.

  3. Judges are out of touch with reality. The requirements to be a judge ensure this. What we need is for for magistraights to be replaced with juries, and for juries to have a legal advisor – the judge.

    Against popular opinion, judges are usually to lienient. For example judges give slap on the wrist to a large number of crimes that the average person would consider to be extremely serious, like causing car crashes, assult, white color crimes involving large sums of money.

    Judges have one of the best jobs in the world. The court is open usually from 10am to 4pm. During which there are 2 30minute gaps and a 2 hour lunch. In other words most courts run for just 3 or 3.5 hours per day. More changes and laws are coming in. The way things are going it won’t be long because only a couple of cases are heard per day.

    Many people are charged with things that are strict liability – yet it goes to court and the ‘reasons/excuses’ get heard. Why? Because its in the interests of the judges and all the government workers for everything to take as long as possible. When something is strict liability it needs to be a fine, and then let the person take it to court if they are that stupid. Instead people are given sitations, show up to court, have no possible defense as its strict liablity. What an enormous waste of time and money.

    Secondly why do people have to show up at all? Get charged, plead guilty, write up some sob story on some paper, have the judge do it all electriconically, challange it again in court later if you want. This would free up 90%+ of court cases and save billions. Most court cases are simply people giving sob stories, judge being a bit lienient and downgrading the penalty. All of this could be done electronically.

    It seems to me the whole system is setup as a revolving wheel. When you look at the cases, half of them are because people didn’t attend court or file some court document. The types of low-lifes that you get in court often has no understanding of ‘time’. Showing up to a court appearance is unusual – they don’t show up to anything, they don’t work or anything they are just bums. So they show up, have no idea what they are doing, do something wrong like swear at a judge, and before they know it they have a never ending list of court apperances that grows bigger and bigger as they make mistakes at more and more apperances.

    In big cases the situation is so rediculous that pre-trial hearings now average longer than the trials themselves! Of course the judges love to a have a full calander and take weeks and months for evaluation, rather than actually make an obvious judgement.

    IMO, certainly in QLD, it is the magistrate who decides if someone is guilty or not in trial cases. They go far beyond their requirement of assessing if there is a case or not, they go so far as to assess if there is guilt or not. They basically decide what charges someone is guilty of and then pass these charges on to the trial.

  4. Mundi,
    You seem to have some insider knowledge of court proceedings. Do you work at a court?
    Not sure what you mean by replacing Magistrates with juries. Do you mean at the lower courts such as Magistrates Court where petty crimes are dispensed with? Who would be directing the proceedings? Wouldn’t it be rather expensive and time consuming?
    Good point with strict liability crimes but I think you should have defined what they actually are.
    And boy, do you ever need a spell checker!

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