The Victorian Bar believes that the State Opposition’s pledge, if elected, to publish data about the sentences delivered by, and the productivity of, Victorian judges and magistrates is simplistic and apt to mislead.
"The experience of Victoria's barristers is that the overwhelming majority of judges and magistrates are very hard-working, often in difficult and stressful circumstances. While judicial officers and courts must expect public scrutiny of their work, every case they hear is unique,” said Dr Matthew Collins QC, President of the Victorian Bar. The Opposition’s proposal would provide Victorians with online access to courts’ “performance data” and judges’ and magistrates’ sentences and convictions, comparing them across courts and other states.
"The community expects court cases to be decided on their merits and according to law,” Dr Collins said.
“Simplistic quantitative analysis of the kind proposed would not take account of qualitative measures relevant to productivity, such as the nature, complexity or duration of the cases, or the number of witnesses, parties or documents tendered in evidence. In relation to sentencing, every case is different. It is not meaningful to compare average sentences, without regard to the circumstances of individual offences and offenders.
“The Victorian justice system is already among the most open and scrutinised institutions in the country, with a range of existing mechanisms, from the ability of every person to enter a courtroom and watch justice being dispensed, to the increasing use of online streaming for decisions, to the Judicial Commission which was established to manage allegations of judicial misconduct,” he said.