The president of the Australian Bar Association has criticised Acting Minister for Justice, Peter Dutton, for making “uninformed comments” and undermining confidence in the judiciary.
The condemnation from bar president Fiona McLeod SC comes after Mr Dutton told 2GB Radio he agreed with coverage of a court case in The Courier-Mail last Thursday.
The Courier-Mail included an editorial arguing against a decision from the Queensland Court of Appeal to overturn a murder conviction, with the words ‘The law is an ass’ featured on the front page on 9 December.
Mr Dutton said the editorial was “dead right”, concluding that “the law’s an ass and sorry to say that’s the reality”.
“Judges should have independence but they should reflect community views,” he said.
Ms McLeod said the role of the judiciary is to apply the law impartially and independently, not to reflect the views of particular interest groups or political interests.
“Unfortunately, the acting minister’s comments fail to recognise the crucial role of our courts in making judicial decisions by applying the law to the particular facts before them,” said Ms McLeod.
“Uninformed comments like these only serve to undermine public confidence in the judiciary. Appeal processes exist to ensure oversight of judicial decisions.
“A strong, independent judiciary is a cornerstone of our system of government, and I call upon the Minister to retract his irresponsible and damaging comments.”
Mr Dutton’s remarks follow a decision by the Chief Justice Catherine Holmes and Justices Hugh Fraser and Robert Gotterson to change last year’s murder conviction of Gerard Baden-Clay to manslaughter last Tuesday.
Mr Baden-Clay was convicted of murder last year after he killed his wife Allison in 2012.