Judge Beattie was appointed a District Court Judge in 1991. Last year I was advised that certain issues had arisen relating to claims for allowances filed by the Judge. The matter was initially investigated by a Queens Counsel and then referred to the Serious Fraud Office for investigation. Judge Beattie was subsequently charged with 45 charges of fraud in relation to travel allowance claims. The charges laid under the Crimes Act required proof that:
The claim forms were used by the Judge for the purpose of obtaining a pecuniary benefit or advantage and;
They were so used dishonestly (with intent to defraud).
Last month a jury acquitted Judge Beattie on all 45 charges.
Since the jury's verdict was delivered I have given serious consideration to whether proper grounds exist for me to tender advice to the Governor General that Judge Beattie be removed from office pursuant to section 7 of the District Courts Act 1947. I have sought the advice of the Solicitor General and I am now releasing his opinion. The conclusion of the Solicitor General is that if Judge Beattie asserts his right to return to judicial duties he cannot be prevented from doing so. I have accepted that advice. Accordingly, I do not propose to tender any advice to the Governor General pursuant to the Act.
I wish to make it clear that there is no suggestion that Judge Beattie is an incompetent judge. The sole issue for determination was whether or not under the legislation he has been guilty of "misbehaviour" sufficient to have him removed from office. I accept the advice I have received that this ground has not been established in view of the jury's verdict.
I am not satisfied that the grounds for removal are wide enough. I have therefore directed my officials to investigate whether or not the District Courts Act 1947 should be amended to include as a ground of removal the fact that a District Court Judge has brought the District Court into disrepute. Of course any such amendment could only apply to any future events.
The Chief District Court Judge, His Honour R L Young, has advised me that he does not consider it appropriate for Judge Beattie to sit in the criminal or civil jurisdiction and that he intends to assign Judge Beattie to hear appeals under the Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act 1992. The Chief Judge has advised me that Judge Beattie will take up this office on Monday, 8 September 1997.