Hard News by Russell Brown


Judging the judges

Attorney general Chris Finlayson is not known for his fiery outbursts. But when senior lawyer Tony Molloy questioned the competence of High Court judges in a recent interview with NBR, the minister reacted with public fury -- even calling on Molloy to surrender his QC's warrant.

In truth, the only unusual thing about the affair was that it was a lawyer doing the trash-talking. Criticism of judges, particularly when they hand down a sentence deemed too light, is a media staple. Several times this year, media outrage has preceded a Crown appeal of such sentences. Sometimes, as in the case of Guy Hallwright, who ran over a man and broke his legs after a confrontation in traffic, the judges hit back.

It that all to the good in a democracy? Or should we be worried about the pressure on judges -- who, after all, are required to follow the sentencing guidelines they are given? Should we be careful what we wish for when the independence of judges is challenged?

I'll be discussing media perceptions of the judiciary and their work with Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesman Kim Workman and New Zealand Herald reporter David Fisher on Media3 this week.

The show will lead with a special report on a New Zealand-made documentary that has caused an international storm by not being what it appears to be. And later Sam Mulgrew will ask: video games -- are they art?

If you'd like to attend this evening's recording, we'll need you to come to the Villa Dalmacija ballroom at 5.30pm.

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