Attorney General It's Time! Magistrate Richard Pithouse has to go!

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Attorney-General the Honourable Jill Hennessy MP,

We demand the immediate referral to the Judicial Commission of Magistrate Richard Pithouse.

Magistrate Richard Pithouse has shown time and time again that he cannot be trusted to uphold common decency, care and consideration for victims of crime.

With a litany of complaints against him why is he still there?

Appointed by Attorney-General to the bench in 2008, by December 2010 at least 7 complaints had been made against him. This was reported in the Sunday Herald Sun in December of 2010. The Department of Justice refused to disclose the real number of complaints made against Magistrate Pithouse.

How many complaints are sufficient to cause the removal of a judicial officer? How bad do you have to be before our political leaders act or before the Chief Magistrate will stand an officer down from their duties?

Last week Magistrate Richard Pithouse suggested an alleged rape victim was experiencing ‘buyer’s remorse’.

“When a magistrate says an alleged rape victim has 'buyer's remorse', it's not just vile, it's dangerous. To imply that a woman who is an alleged victim of rape simply ‘regretted her decision’ after having a few too many drinks and stumbling home with a stranger is insensitive, potentially re-traumatising and unnecessary. ~ (Read more here, Dec 2018, ‘When a magistrate says an alleged rape victim has ‘buyer’s remorse’, it’s not just vile, it’s dangerous.’

 

We believe this man is not fit to sit on the bench and demand that the Attorney General refer him to the Judicial Commission immediately.

We ask that the Chief Magistrate stand Magistrate Pithouse down from his duties immediately.

 

The following people and organisations support this petition calling for action regarding Magistrate Richard Pithouse ~

Australia Against Male Violence Towards Women
REAL for Women
Reclaim the Night Ballarat
Reclaim the Night Perth
F.A.B ~ Feminist Action Ballarat
Cr. Belinda Coates
Cr. Steve Jack Medcraft ~Victims of Crime Advocate
Women Shout Out Australia
#WalkOutOz

 


TIME LINE OF CONTROVERSIAL CONDUCT

Richard Pithouse Appointed to the bench by Attorney-General Rob Hulls.
2008
Mr Hulls said he "welcomed Mr Pithouse to the Court as part of the Victorian Government's commitment to improving community access to justice". (referred to in July 2010 article, ‘Strike three for magistrate Richard Pithouse’. )

 

Pithouse refuses to consider victim’s evidence, injuries, in DV case.
November 2009*
Described by journalist James Campbell as the “wrong way magistrate”. SHS
Richard Pithouse refused to consider a victim’s evidence, ignored her injuries and let her attacker off without conviction, instead ordering the woman to pay the RSPCA $250.


Ballarat resident Dennise Ebsary sent a letter of complaint last November to Chief Magistrate Ian Gray about Mr Pithouse after the case in September, which had left her feeling outraged at the magistrate’s actions.

"Mr Pithouse made comment about it being a family tiff and not that serious. He made me feel like a hysterical bimbo, blowing it all out of proportion and wasting his time," Ms Ebsary said in her complaint. (Read more here, July 2010, ‘Strike three for magistrate Richard Pithouse’.)

 

Pithouse refuses application for intervention order, woman is assaulted.
June 2010
Richard Pithouse became the subject of two more complaints in November 2009. One from a Ballarat welfare organisation and one from police officer, Sgt Craig Dooley.

Complaints were sent to Chief Magistrate Ian Gray after Mr Pithouse refused to grant a police application for an intervention order against a violent prisoner who was stalking his wife. The Ballarat welfare organisation complained Mr Pithouse refused to hear evidence of the man's threatening letters.

Magistrate Pithouse refused to grant the police application for an intervention order against a violent prisoner who was stalking his wife. Instead he accused police of conducting a vendetta against the man.

The woman was later attacked by the man after he was released from prison.

Whilst Magistrate Pithouse's conduct sparked two formal complaints to the state's Chief Magistrate in November, it seems no action was taken.

Justice advocate, Steve Medcraft from People Against Lenient Sentencing has called for him to resign or be sacked, saying disciplinary measures rather than "fireside chats" were needed after fresh revelations of another female complainant left shaken by Mr Pithouse's conduct.

"This is his third strike. That's good night to the magistrate and it's time the powers that be start to take complaints against him seriously," Mr Medcraft said. "He obviously has no compassion or understanding for women's issues. (Read more here, July 4 2010, ‘Strike three for magistrate Richard Pithouse’. Or here, 27 June, ‘Magistrate Richard Pithouse refused police plea to protect prisoner's wife’.)

 

Richard Pithouse travels to Ararat instead of Ballarat.
June 2010
On that same day he refused to hear a victim impact statement and ruled in favour of a former Barrister colleague getting his gun licence back.

 

Pithouse refuses to hear sexual assault victim’s Impact Statement
20 June 2010
Magistrate Richard Pithouse has scrapped a victim Impact Statement after going to wrong court and running out of time. Richard Pithouse was counselled by the state’s Chief Magistrate Ian Gray over his refusal to hear a 23 yr old victim’s impact statement from a sex assault victim who had flown down from Queensland. The story of "Emma" sparked criticism from victims' rights groups.

Emma attended court to see her attacker, Andrew John Leishman, plead guilty to two counts of indecent assault committed against her in 2007.

After years dealing with the legacy of his crimes, she had flown from interstate at her own expense to tell her attacker how his actions had affected her.  But instead she was left stunned and hurt when, after the sex offender pleaded guilty, the magistrate dismissed attempts for her statement to be read.

"I felt I didn't get justice at all. I feel let down. It's just shattered me," the victim told the Sunday Herald Sun. "It has taken me back to square one in terms of what happened to me."

Prof Caroline Taylor, foundation chair in Social Justice at Edith Cowan University, called on an intensive probe of Mr Pithouse's decision,

"It completely undermines and subverts the intention of the legislation, which was introduced to finally give victims of crime a voice in the criminal justice system once an offender has been convicted. We have been at pains to educate the judiciary around victim sensitivity, especially with regard to sexual offences, so this magistrate's decision to completely ignore a VIS is extremely disappointing. The Chief Magistrate should call him to account."

Justice advocate Steve Medcraft slammed the actions of the magistrate, who was appointed in October 2008. "It shows a total lack of empathy for the suffering of this victim," Mr Medcraft said. "Women are somehow second-class citizens in our justice system."

Victim impact statements were introduced in 1994 and, in 2007, a report commissioned by Attorney-General Rob Hulls made a recommendation to "further enhance the operation" of the statements. (Read more here, 20 June, ‘Sex assault victim 'was denied fair hearing'.)

 

Disgraced Ballarat Barrister and Colleague has Gun Licence reinstated
25 June 2010
Disgraced Ballarat barrister Graeme Jackson lost his gun licence after a court found him guilty of a string of criminal offences and police seized three guns from his house. Jackson was found guilty last year of seven counts relating to falsifying documents, including forging his wife's signature on tax cheques.

Last month he returned to court to try to get his gun licence back and appeared before his old family law colleague, Richard Pithouse. He applied to court to be deemed a non-prohibited person in relation to a firearms application, the court listing shows.

Magistrate Pithouse heard the application and granted it.

Mr Pithouse heard the firearms application the same day he accidentally went to Ararat courthouse, not Ballarat, and then offended a sex assault victim by scrapping her heartfelt victim-impact statement. (Read more here, 25 June, ‘Pithouse nod to associate’.)

  

Bullied School Boy assaulted after Pithouse Refuses Order                    October 2010

A schoolboy whose tormentors made a DVD depicting him being shot was bashed by bullies after Magistrate Richard Pithouse overturned a protection order. The distraught family have had to sell their house and move after bullies visited their address following Richard Pithouse’s order.

“He lifted the order and then my son got bashed.”

The victim’s mother said the interim intervention order they obtained initially from the court had kept the bullies and cronies at bay. Mr Pithouse objected to their application to make it a permanent order and replaced it with a non-binding agreement of mutual respect. The victim was once more bullied and attacked by several boys. That incident resulted in an assault charge against the main perpetrator.

The boy and his family are shocked Magistrate Pithouse "yelled and banged" objects in court, describing their request for an intervention order as bordering on "abuse of process" and refusing it.

The family sent an audio recording of the hearing to Mr Gray, the Chief Magistrate who responded, "You have referred to his behaviour as unacceptable and included 'raising his voice' and 'slamming down objects at times'. I accept that there were times in the hearing where Magistrate Pithouse was frustrated with counsel and did these things, and, while this was not directed at you or your son, I do appreciate that behaviour of this kind may be upsetting," Mr Gray said.


"While I am sure Magistrate Pithouse did not intend to offend or distress you, I will remind him of the way behaviour of this kind can be perceived by others, particularly when people are already upset or distressed by being at court."


Mr Pithouse's unorthodox style on the bench has angered many crime victims who have come before him and his critics range from police to women's groups. Victims' advocates, including Steve Medcraft from People Against Lenient Sentencing, have called for him to resign or be sacked.

It is the second time an applicant for an intervention order refused by Mr Pithouse has later been assaulted. (Read more here, 5 December, ‘Family's anguish at Magistrate Richard Pithouse's bullying ruling’.

 

Richard Pithouse suggests dv victim had wanted to be bashed.          December 2017

In a family violence case, Mr Pithouse criticised the female victim for not making a sworn statement against the man attacking her, suggesting she wanted to be beaten up. His comments came after statements from police said the victim was terrified of her former partner and believed both her and their child were at risk if the accused received bail.

“Well it’s her right to be beaten up if she wants to, I suppose,” Mr Pithouse said in court.

The accused was bailed despite police fears he might harm his former partner. (Read more here, ‘Magistrate suggests family violence victim wanted beating.’

  

Pithouse charged with leaving the scene of a crash.
March 2018
Magistrate Richard Pithouse has been charged with failing to stop after an accident and failing to report an accident but was spared a criminal record when NSW magistrate Ian Guy - hearing the case to eliminate any perception of bias - put Mr Pithouse on the court's diversion program, which spares first-time offenders from any penalty or a criminal record if they acknowledge wrongdoing. The second charge was withdrawn.

Mr Pithouse was charged in January but continued working, although he was banned from hearing traffic matters and criminal cases. Victoria's Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen said on Wednesday he would now return Mr Pithouse to full duties.

Mr Guy said penalties should be no tougher or lenient for magistrates committing crimes, but found Mr Pithouse would have been "acutely aware of his responsibilities". "That's not an insignificant failing, one would have to say," he said. (Read more here, ‘Magistrate Richard Pithouse spared criminal punishment for leaving accident scene’.)

  

Pithouse says rape victim experiencing buyer’s remorse.
November 2018
Penny who is legally blind claims she was taken advantage of by the man, who she said she met outside a Crown casino bar in the early hours of March 11 last year. But Mr Pithouse said in a hearing, “There’s an old adage … that you can’t profit from your own malfeasance.”

Her lawyer argued back: “At 9.30 the next morning, she rang the sexual assault crisis line. Now if this was a woman that got so drunk, that woke up and thought, ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ …”

To that, Mr Pithouse answered, “Buyer’s remorse.”


The exchange happened during the initial phase of a hearing to determine if the woman will receive financial assistance as a result of her claim to be a victim of crime. Penny has complained to the Judicial Commission about the “victim-blaming” magistrate’s comments, made on October 24.


“He pretty much said I provoked what happened,” she said.


A Magistrates’ Court spokeswoman said on Tuesday night: “The Chief Magistrate is looking into the issues raised by the Herald Sun late Tuesday.”

Rebekah Hart of Your Lawyer in Ringwood said Mr Pithouse’s comments contradicted the purpose of VOCAT. “The Magistrate’s comments were incredibly inappropriate. Not only did he show a lack of sympathy towards a victim of alleged sexual assault, he also denied the very service VOCAT exists for – assisting victims and giving them a voice.”

Victims of Crime Commissioner, Greg Davies said the treatment of alleged victim Penny was extraordinary and had the power to further devastate a vulnerable person.

“It’s not just victim-blaming — it’s victim bashing”. “This will absolutely compound whatever issues have confronted this victim as a result of this crime,” he said. “It could be devastating — all for a lack of courtesy or respect.” (Read more here, ‘Magistrate slammed for heartless rape comments.’

 


2008 ~ Richard Pithouse Appointed to the bench by Attorney-General Rob Hulls.
Nov 2009 ~ Pithouse refuses to consider victim’s evidence, injuries, in DV case.
June 2010 ~ Pithouse refuses application for intervention order, woman is assaulted.
June 2010 ~ Richard Pithard travels to Ararat instead of Ballarat.
20 June 2010 ~ Pithouse refuses to hear sexual assault victim’s Impact Statement.
25 June 2010 ~ Disgraced Ballarat Barrister and Colleague has Gun Licence reinstated.
October 2010 ~ Bullied School Boy assaulted after Pithouse Refuses Order.
December 2017 ~ Richard Pithouse suggests dv victim had wanted to be bashed.
March 2018 ~ Pithouse charged with leaving the scene of a crash.
November 2018 ~ Pithouse says rape victim experiencing buyer’s remorse.
December 2018 ~ ….

 



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