Monthly Archive March 2019

AB v Judaical Commission of NSW (Conduct Division) 2018 NSWCA 264

AB v Judaical Commission of NSW (Conduct Division) 2018 NSWCA 264 AB, a Local Court Magistrate, was the subject of complaint to the Judicial Commission of NSW and in turn referred to the Conduct Division. Pursuant to s.24(l) of the Judicial Officers Act the Conduct Division “May hold hearings in connection with the complaint”. On 8 June 2018 the Conduct Division directed that a hearing be held and affixed the dates for the hearing. Pursuant to s.24(2) the Conduct Division may determine that a hearing “be held in public or in private”.  On 8 October 2018 the Conduct Division determined that the hearing should be held in public. AB appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal from the decision of the Conduct Division. The Court, comprised of Basten JA; Meagher JA and Gleeson JA, dismissed the summons seeking judicial review of the decision of the Conduct Division to hold a hearing in public. 1 Eleven grounds of review were relied upon by AB. It was argued that the Conduct Division “plainly fell into error by wrongly construing s. 24(2)” and in so doing “failed to consider the purpose of the text of s.24(2) in its proper context within the operation of the Judicial Officers Act”. The Court held that grounds 1 and 5 were without substance and that the Conduct Division dealt with the power to determine whether a hearing be held in public or private properly. Grounds 2 and 3 were also rejected and the Court found that the Conduct Division did not conclude that it had made a constraining order at some point which had no power to undo the order: it was patently more concerned about the effect of failing to make such an order, which was the course that took over the objection in the applicant.2 Ground 4 alleged that the Conduct Division “incorrectly applied the principles of ‘open justice’ to an administrative rather than judicial context”. The Court observed that an incorrect application of a legal principle does not necessarily involve jurisdictional error. Further, that giving ‘too much weight’ to a permissible consideration does not usually indicate jurisdictional error. Their Honours referred to the observations of Spigelman CJ in Bruce v Cole3  that the role of the Conduct Division was to provide a procedural strength, reinforced in the principle of judicial independence, in the system for maintaining the integrity of the judiciary pursuant to which “from the passage of the act of settlement (1700) Eng” it has been accepted that judicial officers cannot be removed except by exceptional measures involving action by both the executive and the legislature.4 The Court also rejected Ground 6 of ‘public interest’. The Court at [54] observed “the term ‘Public interest’ has no precise meaning. It is protean and will take its possible meanings from the context in which it is used. In fact each of the six criteria set out in the Guideline involves an element of the ‘public interest’”. Grounds 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were also rejected. 1 See AB v Judicial Commission of NSW (Conduct Division) [2018] NSWCA 264.        2 Para [35] 3 (1998) 45 NSWLR 163 At [166]-[177] 4 Bruce v Cole (1998) 45 NSWLR 163 At [166f]

Regina v XY

XY is a married woman who tragically had been diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia for many years. She is married to a loving and caring husband. The have one child who is an adult and a successful professional person. XY was originally diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1990’s. She was admitted to a hospital for a lengthy period of time and treated after her discharge with anti-psychotic medication. She continued taking medication from the early 1990’s until about 2015.

As she had been complying with her medication for so many years she decided most regrettably to cease taking her medication. She thought that she could function well without her medication. In the latter part of 2016 and in 2017 her condition commenced to deteriorate. She became disorientated and had irrational beliefs that people were trying to hurt her. She became obsessed with paranoid beliefs of being poisoned. Whatever she viewed on television to her was reality.

XY’s Husband and their Daughter were concerned about her behaviour and encouraged her to go and see her General Practitioner. Her local Doctor had been treating her for many years and recently retired and the Husband and Daughter thought that XY had returned to see her General Practitioner to be prescribed appropriate medication.

On the day of the incident XY had a delusional belief that her husband had been in some way sexually abusing their daughter. This was a delusional belief as no such history had occurred. XY in a psychotic episode accused her Husband of sexually abusing their Daughter and attacked him with a knife attempting to sever his penis. As a result he was seriously injured.

Neighbours intervened and Police were called and XY was arrested and taken to a psychiatric hospital where she remained for some months.

Greg Walsh was asked to help XY and he did so. She apart from her psychiatric illness had been an extremely devoted Wife and Mother and had worked very hard over many years to help her Husband but over recent times was suffering from a serious illness. She otherwise had a very loving and caring relationship with her Husband. There were concerns about bail and in particular Police insisted that XY had no contact with her Husband. This was problematic because they had otherwise, such a close and loving relationship. However, the incident concerned was an extremely serious one and she had been charged with very serious offences, including wounding with intent.

The psychiatric hospital concerned provided wonderful treatment and support to XY and there was established a community treatment program. Appropriate accommodation was organised for XY and a community nurse initially saw her on a frequent basis and she attended also readily upon her treating psychiatrist and a psychologist and general practitioner. She maintained strict compliance with her medication and accepted that she should never have stopped taking her medication and that this was the triggering problem for her predicament.

An application to vary her bail was heard at the Downing Centre Local Court before Magistrate Atkinson. Police opposed any contact between XY and her Husband. The Husband had attended Court and whilst in Court they instinctively embraced and could not be separated. The bail conditions were varied so as to permit XY to have supervised contact with her Husband and the supervisor was her Daughter.

The Defence of mental illness was raised and the matter went to Trial. Greg Walsh appeared for XY at Trial and she was examined by a Forensic Psychiatrist on behalf of the Prosecution and also Dr Olav Nielssen, who gave evidence for her. The diagnosis of schizophrenia was agreed upon and that the schizophrenia was the cause of her conduct in attacking her Husband. XY was found not guilty on the grounds of mental illness by Acting Judge Graham of the District Court and a number of orders were made requiring her to accept appropriate treatment and to comply with supervision in the community.

XY has continued to strictly adhere to her treatment regime and is now living back with her Husband whom she is providing support to.