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Judicial Conduct Commissioner concludes investigation into magistrate

The South Australian Judicial Conduct Commissioner has concluded an investigation into complaints against a serving magistrate who was alleged to have been improper towards five women across seven years. It follows shortly after a state-wide report was released that revealed a magistrate had inappropriately texted a practitioner.

user iconNaomi Neilson 15 June 2021 Big Law
Judicial Conduct Commissioner concludes investigation into magistrate
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Early in May, the Honourable Anne Vanstone QC began to investigate a series of “preliminary examinations of complaints” about the conduct of a serving magistrate, who has not been named. The magistrate has denied impropriety. 

As a result, Commissioner Vanstone recommended that Attorney-General Vickie Chapman appoint a judicial conduct panel to look into the complaints further, which she added had not previously been appointed in the state but would hold important powers similar to that of a royal commission to rule on the magistrate’s position. 

 
 

Under the Judicial Conduct Commissioner Act 2015, it would consist of two current or former judicial officers and a layperson to inquire into matters appointed by the Attorney-General. The final report by the panel would include its expert opinions on whether the removal of a judicial officer was justified. 

“My own decision to make this recommendation does not involve my making factual findings about whether the alleged incidents occurred, or the circumstances of them; except to an extent necessary to inform a recommendation,” the commissioner said. 

“Apart from providing the materials in my files to any panel which may be convened, my role in respect of these complaints has now concluded.” 

In a message to media in May, Chief Magistrate Mary-Louise Hribal confirmed that a magistrate at the centre of allegations detailed in a state-wide sexual harassment report would not be sitting in court while Commissioner Vanstone investigated. 

The allegations in question came from a lawyer who said she had been sent numerous inappropriate text messages from a sitting magistrate, including one that read he was “imagining me kneeling between his legs”. This allegation and others prompted the profession to call out the misconduct in the days following. 

More to come.