Australia

Decision imminent on sitting Magistrate after harassment claims

Exclusive: The Supreme Security Judge of South Australia will make a decision later today as to whether a serving security judge will continue to sit while under investigation by the Judiciary Committee on suspicion of sexual harassment.

A spokesperson for the Court Administration said InDaily Supreme Security Justice Mary-Louise Frival was currently considering the issue this morning, but a decision was expected today.

It will come later InDaily Obviously yesterday Judiciary Commissioner Ann Vanstone has begun a preliminary investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by a fellow judge in the district court in 2018.

In an interview with InDailyAlice Bitmead, now a federal prosecutor, said she was “essentially sexual” and “very unpleasant” after the Justice of the Peace repeatedly said to her during work dinners and business hours. He claimed to have made him feel like a “sexual object.”

Bitmead claimed that harassment occurred in February 2018 for three weeks. She worked near a justice of the peace. InDaily Choosing not to name, who continues to preside over the proceedings.

In the meantime, she insisted that her partner “satisfied” her and commented, hinting at “how much he wants to have a relationship” with her.

Bitmead also sought to file a complaint with a senior judiciary months after the harassment, but claimed that he had not received a response or apology since then.

The allegations have led Judge Chris Clakis to begin another investigation into why Bitmead’s allegations failed to draw his attention in 2018.

A spokesperson for the Court Administration said InDaily As a result of Clakis’ investigation this morning, a protocol was developed to quickly draw the attention of the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice, and the Justice of the Peace on “this kind of problem.”

The actions of the judiciary (the officer who judges the actions of others) should go beyond criticism

Meanwhile, Vanstone released an official statement this morning saying he was “problematic” in a recent report of alleged misconduct by a judiciary.

She said improper conduct “doesn’t happen in any workplace” and “if it does, you should call it and hold the person responsible for it accountable.”

She said recently Abominable report on sexual harassment in legal professionLast month, he pointed out “a serious cultural problem of the legal profession that causes bad behavior, mainly due to the hierarchical nature of the profession,” inherited from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“The judiciary is at the top of this hierarchy,” she said.

“If judicial officers consider such a culture acceptable and bring it to court, they will face an uncertain future.

“The actions of a judiciary, an officer who judges the actions of others, must go beyond criticism.

“There is no doubt that this applies to most South Australian judicial officers.”

According to a review by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 42% of the 600 South Australian legal practitioners who responded to the survey reported experiencing sexual or discriminatory harassment in the workplace.

Just under 13% of them said the action was taken by a judiciary.

Mr Vanstone said her office had not received sexual harassment complaints until last Friday. She suspected that this was due to “fear of speaking.”

“I understand the fear, but if it isn’t reported, it won’t stop,” she said.

“I call on individuals who have experienced improper conduct by a judiciary to find the courage to report to me. Who else is it?”

Senior lawyer Claire O’Connor SC, who had previously spoken about her experience of sexual harassment in the legal profession, called for the resignation of the justice of the peace under investigation while Vanstone was conducting the investigation.

It’s an indictment against our profession

she said InDaily In South Australia, there were “many cases” in which a judiciary accused of improper behavior was stuck during an investigation.

“You can’t hire someone to make a decision, make a decision, and impose penalties on behalf of the community if the allegations have been filed and have not yet been investigated,” she said.

“Because you are in the midst of providing justice, there must be an environment in which people must trust the judicial system when a complaint is made against you.”

Kimberly Lawrence, chairman of the Women’s Bar Association SA, said the review and Bitmead’s allegations were “indictments against our profession.”

“The (sexual harassment) problem has existed for a long time, but this culture of silence has been broken by the Equal Opportunity Commission report,” she said.

“Now, experts can’t ignore it.”

Rebecca Sandford, chairman of the Bar Association, said Bitmead’s allegations were “serious and worrisome.”

“Everyone should feel safe and respected at work,” she said.

“A recent Equal Opportunity Commission report acknowledges that professional members have been reluctant to file complaints and commends the courage of those who have reported inappropriate behavior.

“It is important and reassuring that these nasty claims are currently being thoroughly investigated.

“It is imperative that Ms. Bitmead be supported through and beyond these investigations and that due process and procedural justice are provided to stakeholders.”

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