Judge the Judges' website goes live

Brian Keen QC - Large                 The Sensible Sentencing Trust’s latest initiative, a website launched to assess judicial decisions that are considered by the Trust to be inadequate, went live on Monday 6 May.

ADLS and the New Zealand Bar Association had already made clear that neither supported the Trust’s goal to “out bad judges” in the manner proposed by the website. The Trust responded that both organisations had overreacted in their dissenting statements.

However, in response to the claim by the Sensible Sentencing Trust (SST) that the ADLS’s reaction was a “hysterical overreaction”, Vice President Brian Keene QC commented:

“Nobody opposes the aim of public confidence in the judiciary through awareness, transparency and understanding. That includes ADLS, the wider profession and the judges themselves.

“However the same SST spokesperson who says these are the SST’s aims sought in the Asher case to blame the judges for deficiencies in the Ministry of Justice’s systems. When challenged she did not accept that anyone other than the judge should be answerable. A critical reaction to the SST over that is not an ‘hysterical overreaction’.”

Now the website is live, the public can decide for itself whether the Trust’s aims will be fulfilled in this manner.

The site, designed to represent a poker table at a casino, sets out actual case-studies that name the judge in a matter and state the sentence that was handed down. Viewers are invited to “deal the card” in order to read the details of the case, and draw their own conclusion as to whether the sentence was just.

The website design extends the gambling analogy to placing photographs of the judges on the Joker card of each pack, alongside the offender’s name and photograph denoted by a low card from the pack.

The site’s disclaimer says that information has been gathered from official and unofficial sources, and that while every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy, “persons wishing to use any information from this site including but not limited to the details of any offender or offence should make their own enquiries and satisfy themselves as to the veracity and reliability of the information”.

In this era of one-stop-shop news consumption, it will remain to be seen whether the general public – those for whom the site has been developed in the first place, in order to provide transparency of the judicial system and judicial decision-making – will feel the need to fact-check the Trust’s assertions.


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