Judge says abusive Aboriginal man like a 'primitive person'
AN NT Local Court judge should not be sacked over comments critical of "indigenous" parenting and likening an Aboriginal man to "a primitive person", Chief Judge Elizabeth Morris has concluded.
Judge Greg Borchers made the comments in the Katherine and Alice Springs Local Courts between November 2018 and March this year and they were subsequently the subject of a complaint by the NT Criminal Lawyers Association.
"You dragged her through the house by her hair on the floor in a demeaning, degrading fashion," Mr Borchers said.
"Just like a primitive person dragging his woman out of the cave ready to give her a further beating."
But in a letter of response to CLANT's complaint, Ms Morris said while Mr Borchers' criticism of indigenous parenting was "not motivated by racism", his use of the word "primitive" was "ill-considered".
"The judge's description of the defendant's conduct could create an apprehension in the mind of a fair-minded and reasonably well informed person that the defendant was being portrayed as a member of a prehistoric race succumbing to intrinsically violent instincts," she said.
"Whatever the judge's subjective intention may have been, the analogy was improperly made in the conduct of the judicial function because it conveyed a negative stereotype on the basis of race."
Ms Morris said while she had no power to impose any sanction in relation to the complaint, "lapses in appropriate judicial demeanour and conduct falling short of the ideal do not qualify as judicial conduct warranting removal".
"I do not consider that Judge Borchers' behaviour disclosed in this and previous complaints constitutes judicial misconduct warranting removal," she said.
CLANT president Marty Aust said the incidents reflected the need for "immediate legislative reform", citing the "extremely limited power" to impose sanctions on sitting judges.
"On Tuesday I met with the Attorney-General, who is well across the issue," he said.
"I am very confident that legislation instituting a Judicial Commission to deal with complaints regarding judicial conduct will be passed in the early part of next year."
Mr Aust said CLANT was now "considering whether further action is required to be taken" in relation to Mr Borchers.
"We look forward to the upcoming legislative reform and hope a new system will eradicate inappropriate behaviour and misconduct and create a safe and inclusive environment for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system," he said.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.