Magistrate charged over crash

A Victorian magistrate has been charged with failing to immediately stop after a car accident in which property was damaged and failing to report full details of the crash to the nearest police station.

Richard Pithouse was charged on Wednesday over a crash in Spotswood in September.

Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen has declined to stand Mr Pithouse down while the case is before the courts, although Mr Pithouse won't hear any traffic or other criminal matters until his case is finalised.

"I do not intend to stand down the magistrate as the charges are untested," Mr Lauritsen said. "The magistrate is entitled, as is every other member of the community, to the presumption of innocence."

Mr Pithouse is due to appear before Melbourne Magistrates Court on March 28.

The former lawyer, who was appointed a magistrate in October 2008, has sat on the bench at courts in Sunshine, Ballarat and Werribee in recent years. He will hear non-criminal matters at Melbourne until his case is over.

Mr Pithouse attracted controversy in Ballarat in 2010 over his decision to deny a victim of sexual assault the right to have her victim impact statement read to the court after her attacker pleaded guilty to indecent assault.

The magistrate ruled at the time that the victim impact statement was tendered too late to be considered before he sentenced the attacker, who was later fined $3000 without conviction.

Mr Pithouse's decision not to consider the statement left the victim crushed and prompted intervention by the then attorney-general, Rob Hulls, and counselling for the magistrate by Victoria's then chief magistrate, Ian Gray.

If found guilty of the traffic offences, Mr Pithouse faces fines. However, it is unclear what impact any penalties would have on his career as a magistrate.

Mr Lauritsen said he had asked Attorney-General Martin Pakula to appoint an interstate magistrate to hear Mr Pithouse's case. That appointment would eliminate any perception of a conflict of interest that could arise if Mr Pithouse appeared before one of his Victorian colleagues.

This story Magistrate charged over crash first appeared on The Age.