Remove Australian Magistrate who told a woman her rape claim was merely 'buyers remorse'
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I was shocked and appalled when I read that magistrate Richard Pithouse said a woman had “put herself in that position” after she alleged she was raped, and that she had “buyer's remorse”.
At the time Pithouse was sitting as the magistrate in the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal, where this woman - who is legally blind - was having her claim heard as a victim of sexual assault.
I believe Pithouse shows a disregard to any tactful measure of compassion, and that we cannot allow this to behaviour to permeate any further into our legal system. That’s why I am calling for his removal as a magistrate. If you agree, I urge you to sign this petition.
Here is the Court Exchange:
Pithouse (P): I disagree with you there. The actions before the incident and during the incident are such that it would not establish an offence
Lawyer (L): Your Honour, my client was so intoxicated that she was incapable of giving consent
P: ...intoxication is not an excuse for the purposes of the tribunal
L: ...she was so intoxicated she was kicked out of a bar...She fell asleep. It would be my submission, Your Honour, that she was so intoxicated that she was unable to provide consent
P: And put herself in that position
L: Well, Your Honour...
P: There's an old adage...in equity (law), that you can't profit from your own malfeasance
L: Your honour, this is a woman that has been raped
P: No, no, she asserts that she has been raped. It's yet to be established
L: 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'...
P: Buyer's remorse
L: I beg to differ
P: Exactly, that's why we're going to hearing... at this stage, unless there is overwhelming contrary evidence that you're going to be able to produce, you're not going to be able to meet the burden. It's as simple as that. She might then have to reconsider her opinion - it's a part of life.
This is not the first time Richard Pithouse has been a 'controversial' representative of our legal system illustrating an apathetic outlook toward his duty and role as a judicial officer of the court. Examples of these are as follows:
- Suggested a domestic violence victim wanted to be assaulted.
- Mistakenly drove to Ararat court when he was due to appear in Ballarat court. Arrived late to the proceedings and in order to recoup the time lost dismissed the complainants 'victim impact statement' of a sexual assault and forced her to read it aloud to the court in front of her alleged attacker.
- Refused to extend an interim intervention order granted by the courts to protect a schoolboy whose repeated verbal, psychological and physical attacks included his tormentors making a DVD depicting him being shot. The abusers began abusing him again soon after the order was lifted.
- Rejected a police application for an intervention order to protect the wife of a violent prisoner who was later stalked and attacked by her former partner.
I want to be clear here - I understand that in the wake of the #MeToo movement there has statistically been shown an increase in compassion fatigue, but please try and picture yourself in this situation faced with the same oppression and dismissiveness. This is not a matter that necessarily has to turn on the verdict but rather the evidence that was presented and how the Magistrate interacted with it.
Australia has historically only allowed for the dismissal of judges or magistrates in rare and exceptional circumstances. I understand and duly concede the merit underpinning this logic; the judiciary should be held separate from influence or persuasion (or coercive pressure) from political parties and public agendas. Yet this does not fully encapsulate the issue at hand nor does it touch on the fact that our legal system stands as our vehicle for democracy, and if that vehicle is compromised by personal bias or compassion fatigue then the infrastructure of our autonomy and right to justice is put into question. This issue transcends a failure of the law. It is a failure of humanity in the hands of an emblem for justice.
This magistrate has been endowed with a revered responsibility to facilitate his power through the body of the law, but instead displays a lackadaisical apathy to his duty and an obtuse disregard for those who come before him.
Please sign this petition if you feel the same.
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