18 Apr 2013

Trust to launch website to 'name and shame' judges

9:00 pm on 18 April 2013

There is strong opposition to a proposed website that will allow the public to evaluate the country's judges.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust plans to launch a website, Judging the Judges, to name and shame judges it disagrees with.

The advocacy group says the site will make judges accountable for their decisions and bring transparency to the judicial system.

It says it will feature judges who consistently get it wrong - particularly when it comes to bail.

Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar says the website will take feedback from members of the public and expose the judges if the complaints are justified.

Mr McVicar says he doesn't want the site to be a forum for ranting, but more openness is needed about the decisions judges are making.

Justice Minister Judith Collins believes judges should not be targeted in this way,

"Judges have a very tough job to do and it's not a role that everybody wants to do. They have to balance information, they try their very best within the law to make decisions. But this isn't feedback - it sounds like a case of bullying, frankly."

Ms Collins says judges should not be criticised for making decisions, because they are doing so in accordance to the laws created by the Government.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson says it's unfair to single out individual judges who have no right of reply and are forbidden from engaging in political debate.

Mr Finlayson fears the website will prompt personal attacks against judges which could extend to violence, and says it is better to protest against the system as a whole.

Crown solicitor Simon Moore, QC, says the website will not help the judicial process.

"Targeting individual judges who cannot answer for themselves will not create any sense of judicial accountability. There is judicial accountability through the appeal system.

"But targeting an individual judge could only have the effect of intimidating that judge, putting that judge under pressure and making that judge's life difficult."

Mr Moore says judges are only human, and when a error has been made it is rectified.