The Queensland justice system could be compromised if it did not have a diverse judiciary that reflected the community it serves, according to a leading judge.
Queensland Chief Magistrate Judge Terry Gardiner said yesterday he had no doubt the community’s trust in the diversity of its current magistracy was strong.
However, he said it was important that steps continued to be taken to ensure and maintain a culturally and gender diverse judiciary that reflected the community it served and maintained ongoing faith in the justice system.
“If a community cannot look at their judges and see men and women they identify with, their trust in the ability of the justice system to do right by them may be compromised,” Judge Gardiner said.
His comments came during his speech to welcome the Magistrate Anthony Gett as Queensland Deputy Chief Magistrate at a ceremony in Brisbane’s George Street Magistrates Court complex on Monday afternoon.
Mr Gett, an internationally renowned former Commonwealth prosecutor who was appointed as a Cairns magistrate in 2013, is the first person of Chinese heritage to achieve a senior role in the Queensland judiciary.
On 11 March Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman announced that Mr Gett had been appointed to replace respected outgoing Deputy Chief and specialist Childrens Court Magistrate Leanne O’Shea.
“His Honour (Deputy Chief Magistrate Gett), whilst the (most) meritorious person for the role of Deputy, brings with him the distinction of being the first person of Chinese heritage to be appointed to a leadership role in the Queensland judiciary,” Judge Gardiner said. “A judiciary that reflects the community it serves is highly desirable.”
Queensland Law Society President Elizabeth Shearer, speaking at the ceremony, said Deputy Chief Magistrate Gett was a fine example of a hardworking legal professional holding to the highest ethical standards – reflecting credit on himself, our courts and the legal profession.
“His Honour’s appointment will only serve to enhance the busiest court in the state,” she said. “I look forward the contribution (he) will make in upholding the administration of justice and affording access to justice to all Queenslanders.”
Judge Gardiner, citing a speech made by New South Wales Chief Justice Tom Bathurst AC in February, said: “As magistrates we take an oath to … at all times and in all things do equal justice to all persons.”
“All members of our community should feel as if they can trust in the judiciary to the highest degree.
“Such variation in the levels of trust among the community calls into question whether the judiciary is in fact doing right to all manner of people.
“The point … Chief Justice (Bathurst) made was the need for the judiciary to reflect the community we serve.
“If a community cannot look at their judges and see men and women they identify with, their trust in the ability of the justice system to do right by them may be compromised.
“I have no doubt the community’s trust in Queensland Magistrates Courts will be incrementally strengthened by the appointment of (Deputy Chief Magistrate Gett).”
The ceremony, attended by a large number of dignitaries, including current and retired judges of the Supreme, District and Magistrates Court and prominent lawyers, was also told of Mr Gett’s extensive career, including his relentless prosecution of computer crime and child exploitation offenders during his 12-year stint with the Commonwealth DPP.
“His Honour was appointed a Magistrate in January 2013 following a successful career with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, where (he) developed an international reputation prosecuting computer crime and child exploitation offences,” Judge Gardiner said.
“(His) expertise in IT has (also) been very helpful in the development of the online court event forms and other technological initiatives being implemented … in driving the courts’ response for the COVID-19 pandemic.”