Local Judge In NT Compares Indigenous Man To “Primitive Person”

, Local Judge In NT Compares Indigenous Man To “Primitive Person”

Local Judge In NT Compares Indigenous Man To “Primitive Person”

A Northern Territory Court Judge has made a habit of making inappropriate and offensive statements relating to Indigenous Australians whilst presiding in Courts since 2017.

THE STORY

Local Court Judge Greg Borchers has developed a reputation for his crude and inappropriate comments in his role on the Bench. Borchers was removed from the Alice Springs Youth Court in 2017 following a series of “gratuitous and unnecessary” remarks to juveniles. His conduct prompted a complaint from the Central Australian Aboriginal legal aid service, and an investigation by the Chief Judge of the Darwin Local Court, John Lowndes, found Borches had brought the judiciary into disrepute, however Borchers was allowed to continue to sit in other NT Courts.

Back in April, Judge Borchers was sentencing an Indigenous woman for breaching her domestic violence order (ADVO) by drinking in the presence of another person named in her ADVO. Borchers made comments such as yesterday was probably pension day, “so you got your money from the government, abandoned your kids in that great Indigenous fashion of abrogating your parental responsibility to another member of your family, and went off and got drunk.”

Five months prior to this incident, Judge Borchers was in Katherine sentencing an Indigenous woman for assault. He was questioning the woman’s lawyer about why she had “abandoned her child to come to Katherine to drink” and wondered aloud who would look after the child after Court. “So, in her case, she’s going to whip home as soon as possible to look after her child because there’s no family to look after it. Are you saying that to me? … Because if you are, I don’t believe it for a moment,” he said. Later in Court, Borchers also said “One day we might read some literature, some important anthropological literature, we might learn something about what’s called Indigenous laissez-faire parenting and I invite you to do so, not that it will help your practice in any way, but it might get you to understand why it is that people abandon their children on such a regular basis.”

The third, and most recent incident of Judge Borchers’ hateful speech is his comparison of an Indigenous man to a “primitive person”. Judge Borchers said “Just like a primitive person dragging his woman out of the cage ready to give her a further beating” when sentencing the man for assaulting his partner.

NO COMPLAINTS PROCESS IN THE NT

The NT Department of the Attorney General and Justice has asked the Judge for comment but a spokesperson for him said judges do not “engage in public debate about judicial decisions” and that a judge “does not comment publicly once reasons for a decision have been published”. No complaints have been received about the Judge’s comments yet, so the Chief Judge cannot investigate the matter. The procedure in the NT is that complaint must be made to the Chief Judge, for an investigation to be opened into a matter. The Judge would then respond through the complaint-handling process.

Natasha Fyles, the NT Attorney General, said it would be inappropriate for Ministers to comment on the actions of Judges, but noted: “Work is underway to create a Judicial Complaints, with legislation expected to be introduced into the Legislative Assembly later in the year.” The investigation back in 2017 by the Chief Judge found that Judge Borchers lacked “judicial temperament”. Further, he said “I have formed the view that in a number of matters the Judge has not demonstrated the courtesy, tolerance, patience and sensitivity which, in accordance with the AIJA Guide to Judicial Conduct, should necessarily characterise the discharge of the judicial function”. “The Judge has been found to have engaged in inappropriate judicial conduct, which is unacceptable … It detracts from the proper performance in the matter at hand, specifically, and it reflects poorly on the Courts generally and brings the judiciary into disrepute.”

WHAT IS THE AIJA?

Importantly, the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration has published a Guide to Judicial Conduct which sets out a practical guide to the principles which judicial officers in Australia should always follow. It relevantly states that the principles applicable to judicial conduct have three main objectives:

  1. To uphold public confidence in the administration of justice;
  2. To enhance public respect for the institution of the judiciary; and
  3. To protect the reputation of individual judicial officers and of the judiciary.

Further, the principles against which judicial conduct should be tested to ensure compliance with the stated objectives are:

  1. Impartiality;
  2. Judicial independence; and
  3. Integrity and personal behaviour.

To read our recent blog post on a Federal Court Judge who may face an investigation by the Law Council, click on the link.

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