Judge Beattie

  • Doug Graham

Two Notices of Motion (from Hon Phil Goff and Matt Robson MP) have been lodged relating to Judge Beattie. They are similar in that they refer to the loss in either public or Parliamentary confidence in the Judge, and request he either reconsider his decision to remain on the Bench or that he should resign. I do not have the same objection to these Notices of Motion that I had to that lodged by Hon Richard Prebble because they record the concern of a number of MPs at the present position and invite Judge Beattie to do something within his power to do.

Nevertheless there are two factors which need careful consideration.

The first is whether the actions of Judge Beattie were so serious that Parliament should elect to become involved? The Judge may well have completed the forms incorrectly but the jury was not satisfied there was any dishonest motive. I do not think that makes him an incompetent Judge and certainly, in my view, hardly justifies the Parliament becoming involved and exerting pressure on him to resign. He may have brought the Court into disrepute and ethically should resign but in reality there could be far more serious incidents than this which might better justify Parliamentary intervention. Even though the temptation to do so is strong, on balance I do not think Parliament should concern itself with Judge Beattie, taking into account the longstanding conventi ons governing the separation of powers between the Legislature, the Executive and the independent Judiciary reflected in Standing Orders.

The second is that it would set an unfortunate precedent in the future. There would be a Hansard record which could be referred to by an MP who wished to bring pressure to bear on a Judge to resign because for some reason the MP didn't think he was up to the job either because of some judicial pronouncement or behaviour off the Bench the MP disliked. We would be getting into dangerous territory there. Again I do not consider Judge Beattie's actions would justify Parliament creating a possible problem for itself in the future.

For the foregoing reasons I will not grant leave and nor will I lodge a Government Notice of Motion as suggested by Hon Richard Prebble. I do not doubt we all would prefer that Judge Beattie resigned voluntarily. But by joining in the pressure to achieve that I consider Parliament would be demeaning itself.