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    « The sound of one man bowing | Main | Brisbane notebook »

    NT AG rejects bar's call for inquiry into political magistrate

    Can a judicial officer be involved in party politics? ... Yes, of course, but only in the Northern Territory where the usual proprieties are in a state of suspension ... Country Liberal Party beak kept-up political connections and activity while on the bench ... So what, says the AG - friend and ally of the Madge  

    Madge Maley: undermining confidence in the impartiality of the magistracy

    The Northern Territory Bar Association's strong and detailed case for a judicial inquiry into the conduct of Top End magistrate Peter Maley has been rejected by Country Liberal attorney general John Elferink, a former copper. 

    Elferink is a firm friend of Maley and as a Top End lawyer Maley contributed $5,000 to Elferink's election campaign. Elferink also completed his practical legal training at Maley's law firm. 

    Maley himself is a former CLP member of parliament. 

    The attorney general told the bar he wouldn't initiate an inquiry into Maley's conduct because the court, "is well equipped to deal with challenges to the importance and impartiality of a judicial officer". 

    Bar prez John Lawrence said that Maley's continued party political involvement, after his appointment as a magistrate in September last year, undermines the independence of the court. 

    Our Darwin correspondent Buffalo Bruce has reported on some of Maley's flagrant breaches of the standards required of a judicial officer. 

    See: Pillars of justice 

    See: Top End turmoil  

    See: Step outside  

    John Lawrence: NT bar president

    In his June 4 letter to The Elf, John Lawrence spells out chapter and verse Maley's misdeeds, including: 

    • His membership of the CLP for eight months after he was appointed a magistrate; 
    • His appointment as a director of the CLP's slush fund, Foundation 51, in January this year (i.e. when he was a magistrate); 
    • The allegation from MP Larissa Lee, who told parliament that Maley, while a magistrate, offered her an inducement if she did not leave the CLP (Maley denies Ms Lee's "characterisation of the conversation"); 
    • Handing out how-to-vote cards for the CLP at the Blain by-election on April 12, 2014, while he was a magistrate; 
    • Allegations in parliament that following Maley's representations to the Minister for Mines and Energy, while a magistrate, he received two water licences for a property in which he has an interest. 

    Maley's audacious conduct falls well outside the bounds of propriety for a serving magistrate. 

    Lawrence provided to Elferink a heap of authorities on independence and the avoidance of political involvement by judicial officers. 

    In the rough and tumble of Top End politics, this counted for nought. The Elf replied: 

    "I will not involve myself as attorney general in this matter nor will I commence any investigation." 

    Acting bar president Alistair Wyvill followed-up this blunt rejection with another letter (June 25) to the attorney general pointing out that the contributions to Foundation 41 are secret, so it is impossible to know whether Maley is conflicted by having an interest in proceedings where a litigant is a donor. 

    Accordingly, anyone appearing before Madge Maley, "might reasonably apprehend an absence of impartiality on the part of the learned magistrate". 

    Wyvill said it is unlikely that any perception about the independence of the court or the impartiality of the magistrate could be resolved by an application in a particular case. 

    In the absence of an independent body, like a judicial commission, it is up to the attorney general to instigate an inquiry, "even if in a particular instance it conflicts with the political interests of the government or your personal interests or affections". 

    Attorney General Elferink: rejected the bar's call for an inquiry into his friend Peter Maley More details of Maley's compromising conduct also came to light after the first letter from the NT bar: 

    • The substantial scale of his business activities and contact with a minister who could assist those interests; 
    • The magistrate's attendance at a dinner on June 14 at the Darwin Casino to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Country Liberal Party. This occurred after Maley issued a statement on May 8 saying he had resigned from the party and his directorship of Foundation 51. 

    The day before Maley made this announcement, Elferink told parliament that the Northern Territory is a beacon of democracy: 

    "The good thing about this is democracy and freedom of speech. A magistrate in the Northern Territory is allowed to have a political opinion. What sort of a society are we living in? It is a fantastic society where a magistrate can have a political opinion, where he can be a member of a political party ...  

    It is fantastic he has rights and freedoms in a democratic society, such as the Northern Territory, to be a member of a political party. Good on him if he wants to make a donation to the member for Port Darwin... 

    Thank you very much, Peter Maley, the magistrate who has shown an interest in the Country Liberals ..." 

    Wyvil said in his letter: 

    "The combined effect of these matters and those referred to in our previous letter goes beyond any question of apprehended bias in any individual matter. 

    They put in question the fact and appearance of the independence of the magistracy in general and Mr Maley SM in particular, as well as raising the suitability of Mr Maley SM to continue to hold the office of magistrate." 

    There was no reply from the AG to the latest missive. 

    None, in the array of half-mad, arrogant or ignorant beaks who sit in courts throughout the wide brown land, get close to Maley's brazen breach of long established principles. 

    You can read the NT bar's statement and correspondence here

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