The New Zealand Bar Association (NZBA) has assailed a New Zealand Herald story published on Sunday that is critical of a District Court judge.
The Herald criticised Judge David McNaughton after its attempt to lift a name suppression order handed down by the judge failed. McNaughton made his order saying that naming the offender would severely compromise their rehabilitation and likely cause them extreme hardship.
“The NZ Bar Association is concerned with what the Herald has done for two reasons. The first is that if the paper is going to appeal the decision it shouldn’t be running its own public process through the newspaper to make its case. Secondly the way in which the paper has revisited other cases where it has disagreed with the judge is vindictive,” said Clive Elliott QC, NZBA president.
“Our wish is to condemn the way in which the Herald has conducted itself by publishing the Herald on Sunday story and to re-affirm our confidence in the integrity of District Court judges who are at the coal face of incredibly difficult criminal cases. It is all too easy for people who are not confronted with those cases on a daily basis to attack or criticise these judges. Balanced, informed and fair criticism is one thing. Personal attacks and sweeping generalisations are not acceptable,” he said.
The NZBA president said that a number of concerned barristers have contacted him after the story was published. He also said that it was ironic that the Herald also published public comments made by Chief Justice Sian Elias, who warned of the risk of “civic disorder” if a distinct population is criminalised.
“If this is a justified comment, then Judge McNaughton should be lauded, not condemned, for encouraging and facilitating preventative and rehabilitative actions of serial offenders,” the NZBA president said.
Lawyer bodies urge urgent culture change
Time to wake up and act, says Bar