THE performance of a new County Court judge sitting in Warrnambool will be brought to the attention of the state attorney general by a leading victims of crime advocate.
Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara has vowed to approach the Attorney-General Robert Clark after a month-long sitting in Warrnambool presided over by Judge Bill Stuart.
Three appeals were abandoned after Judge Stuart warned appellants they could receive harsher penalties.
Another three appellants had their charges completely dismissed.
Of the remaining 17 appeals every appellant received a lesser penalty.
Twelve appellants who were sentenced to immediate jail terms now no longer have to go to prison.
Mr McNamara was clear about his view of the raw statistics.
“That’s a disgrace,” he said. “It shows the bloke is completely out of touch. It’s some of the most startling re-sentencing I have ever heard about.
“That information has to be passed on to the Attorney General Robert Clark and (I) will make sure he hears about what’s been going on at Warrnambool.”
Mr McNamara said Judge Stuart had been a leading defence lawyer.
“He’s never been on the right side of the law. Defence lawyers are bleeding hearts, they have to be to justify their conscience because of what they do,” he said.
“They spend their lives discrediting good witnesses and then someone appoints them to be judges.”
Mr McNamara said good judges had to be trained and not just appointed, like they are in other parts of the world such as France.
“We need to try and get a better system. Clearly Judge Stuart should be doing civil matters,” he said.
Experienced Warrnambool City councillor Michael Neoh said the community was concerned about inconsistency or perceived inconsistency when higher-level judicial officers disagreed with local rulings.
He said he did not think it was appropriate to criticise local magistrates.
Cr Neoh added that the regular Warrnambool magistrate Jonathan Klestadt lived locally and had a feel for the community and community expectations in relation to sentencing.
Cr Peter Hulin said he believed the whole legal system needed to be reviewed.
Warrnambool mayor Jacinta Ermacora said sentencing was complex.
“In sentencing, courts are obliged to comply with sentencing law, precedents and other complexities, however the running of the court system must instil community confidence in the fairness of the justice handed down,” she said.
Warrnambool police In-spector Kevin Archer refused to be drawn into the debate surrounding the appeal decisions of Judge Stuart, which have led to outrage among senior police officers.
He said it was the role of police to put together the best possible briefs of evidence.
“Our job finishes when we put accused persons and that evidence before the suitable jurisdiction,” he said.
A selection of cases and their outcomes during the recent sitting of the County Court in Warrnambool.
Sarah Ryan, 32, of Glenthompson: seven charges of passing valueless cheques — received a three-month jail sentence to be followed by a 15-month community corrections order with 50 hours of work.
New penalty: not convicted and placed on a six-month good behaviour bond.
Sarah Jane Davies, 32, of Hamilton: driving while disqualified and breaching a suspended sentence — received four months’ imprisonment with one month to serve and three months suspended for 24 months.
New penalty: 12-month good behaviour bond.
Lindsay White, 49, of Warrnambool: dealing in property suspected of being the proceeds of crime ($450 in cash) and two counts of possessing cannabis — received two months in jail.
New penalty: $300 fine.
William Filliponi, 29, of Portland: burglaries, thefts and causing criminal damage — received 23 months’ imprisonment with nine months to serve before being eligible for parole.
New penalty: placed on a three-year community corrections order with 200 hours of work.
Bronwyn Nuku, 28, of Portland: pleaded guilty to stalking, unlawful assault and possessing cannabis — received nine months’ imprisonment with three months to serve and six months suspended for two years. Fined $800.
New penalty: placed on a three-year community directions order, no work and fines cut to $200.
Alistair Steff, 41, of Hamilton: recklessly causing injury, unlawful assault and making threat — received 12 months’ imprisonment with four months to serve immediately.
New penalty: placed on a two-year community corrections order to do 300 hours of work.
Brendon Beavis, 49, of Heywood: careless driving, driving while disqualified and breaching a suspended sentence — received four months’ imprisonment and a nine-month community based order with the condition he do 60 hours of work.
New penalty: an 18-month community corrections order with the condition he perform 90 hours of community work.
Jessica Baker, 25, of Cobden: drink-driving (.105) — received a conviction and $525 fine and her driver’s licence was cancelled for 10 months.
New decision: charge dismissed.
Cobden’s Trevor Clarke, 41: exceeding the speed limit (110 km/h in a 60 km/h zone) — received a conviction and $650 fine. His licence was suspended for 12 months.
New decision: charge dismissed.
Britta Raeside, 23, of Warrnambool: unlawful assault — received non-conviction, fined $500.
New penalty: charge dismissed.