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  • Vic barristers call out bullying judges
  • By Karen Sweeney
  • 18/10/2018 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: Pina ( 12 articles in 2018 )
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Victorian barristers have spoken up against the bad behaviour of the state's judges and magistrates in a report revealing almost two thirds have been the victim of judicial bullying.

Denigraton and personal attacks ranked among the biggest concerns for 850 barristers who responded to a Victorian Bar survey as part of an investigation into health and wellbeing at work.

One barrister reported the experience of bullying in long-running trials was "excruciating" while another said they wanted judges to treat barristers with the respect they themselves expected.

"Overall, the commonest form of judicial bullying is grossly discourteous and disrespectful behaviour from the bench, in public, in front of clients and other lawyers," one reported.

Victorian Bar president Matt Collins QC said such findings were concerning.

One in four barristers reported experiencing denigration in forms including public humiliation and belittling comments, while one in 10 had endured eye-rolls, sarcasm and comments designed to embarrass them.

Five per cent felt magistrates or judges reached adverse conclusions before they'd even heard a case.

Among the comments, one woman said female barristers had to be respected rather than stereotyped for their gender, pointing out she wanted to be called by name and not "darling" or "girl".

But another barrister suggested the bar could "cease its annoying preoccupation with 'gender equality' and 'equitable briefing for women', an entirely false and unnecessary campaign".

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said bullying, discrimination and harassment would not be tolerated in the state's courts.

She has developed a protocol for barristers to approach her directly with complaints about conduct in the Supreme Court and that Chief Judge Peter Kidd had done the same for the County Court.

"Robust and vigorous legal debate is common in the courtroom but judges across all jurisdictions must always be mindful to treat people with respect and dignity," she said.

The Judicial College of Victoria revealed it had already begun work on educational programs with Justice Ferguson and others focusing on conduct and leadership.

Chief executive Samantha Burchell said the main focus was on the need for systemic and cultural change.

The findings weren't all negative. Ninety per cent of respondents reported a sense of achievement from their jobs while 80 per cent were satisfied with their roles.

Some of the more light-hearted responses included a call for courts to "bring back wigs" while another simply asked "less ego, more chocolate".

The surveyed barristers make up 40 per cent of the state's practising counsel.

Originally published as Vic barristers call out bullying judges


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