Grave questions raised and left unanswered

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 1996, 12:00am

I refer to the statement issued by the Judiciary concerning Judge Brian Caird.

It is said in the statement, and absolutely rightly, that the disquiet in the public's mind about the complaints the judge made to Ian McWalters and John Reading must be dispelled.

However, the statement cannot be said to have achieved this. Grave questions are raised and left unanswered.

Firstly, can it be proper for a judge to approach Crown Counsel and discuss a case he is hearing, particularly when the Crown Counsel is connected with that case? If it is improper, why is the Acting Chief Justice silent about such impropriety? Secondly, it is now confirmed that conversations did take place between Judge Caird and two of his fellow judges on the subject of the Nattrass case, on the basis of which Judge Caird did form the view that political pressure was put on him by the New Zealand Government. What were these conversations? Did either of the two judges refer to any view the New Zealand Government might have taken? Is it proper for judges to discuss each other's case if it might influence their judgment? If so, how can it be said that such views did not constitute pressure? Thirdly, the statement refers to Judge Caird's statement on August 22 denying he was under political pressure. If his health did so seriously affect him on August 17 and 18 as to result in the statements he made to Mr McWalters and Mr Reading, why did he maintain on August 22 and successive dates, that nothing warranted his stepping down from the case? Why has his health again become a reason for stepping down on September 3? Was pressure put on Judge Caird to step down, and if so, by whom? These are just some of the questions which must inevitably arise in the public's mind.

The statement suggests strongly that the matter is being swept under the carpet. This is not conducive to the public's confidence in the Judiciary, either on its independence or on its determination to maintain a scrupulous standard as to conduct or discipline.

MARGARET NG Legislative Councillor