MEDIA STATEMENT: QLS President's Letter to the Editor

QLS President Rebecca Fogerty yesterday wrote to the Editor of the The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in response to an interview with Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton recently commented that judicial officers adopt a “tough approach” to crime and that offenders “get a slap on the wrist without ever being accountable” (Courier Mail, 28 April 2024).  He criticised Queensland magistrates as being “civil libertarians”. This is yet another recent example of a politician criticising the judiciary in a way that is factually inaccurate and unnecessarily inflammatory.  Queensland Law Soçiety denounces these comments.  

One of the most precious features of Australian democracy is the separation of powers.  This means that the courts must be able to apply the laws free from political interference. Political interference can include criticism of sentencing outcomes, especially when it is directed at particular cases or judicial officers or when it occurs in a sustained manner without reference to empirical data.

Politicians of all stripes campaign on a “law and order” agenda that is “tough on crime”.  Unfortunately, the outcome usually isn’t better laws, and it certainly isn’t a reduction in the crime rate.  Unjustified criticism of judges and magistrates (who cannot answer back) stokes public cynicism and mistrust.  This undermines the rule of law and increases the prospect of reactionary and ineffective carceral reforms.  Queensland Law Society urges lawmakers to adopt and promote a bipartisan approach to criminal law reform which is evidence-led and free from sensationalist rhetoric.