A series of scandals at the Queensland Supreme Court has exposed the system as dysfunctional, with judges being charged with misconduct and judicial misconduct cases going to court on the basis of hearsay evidence.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the chief judges of the courts, Justice Thomas Hughes and Justice Peter Smith, said there was a “serious risk” of a judicial crisis in Queensland if a new coronial inquiry is not launched.
“The chief judges are deeply concerned that the coronial commission has not undertaken its statutory responsibilities and its mandate has been significantly undermined by the coroners’ inquiries and other recent investigations,” they said.
“This has led to significant concerns about the integrity of the judiciary, the integrity and the independence of the court and the integrity, independence and independence of our judiciary and the confidence of the community.”
The coronial inquiries were launched in December, 2015 after allegations emerged of improper behaviour in the Queensland Court of Appeal.
The Queensland Supreme Criminal Court was also closed after an investigation.
The investigations also included a review of the Queensland police’s use of CCTV technology and a review into how police handled a fatal shooting of a man by police in 2014.
The chief justice and justice Smith were appointed to the court by the Gillard government in May this year, after a two-year wait for appointments.
In June, the Queensland Senate confirmed the appointment of the independent chief justice, Justice Anthony Dolan, after the Queensland Government and the police agreed a special appointment would be made.
In his first speech as chief justice in January, Mr Dolan said he had “a responsibility to act on behalf of the people of Queensland and uphold the highest standards of the law and to do so within the limits of the Constitution”.
“I will not hesitate to act in the interests of justice and the community if that means the pursuit of justice in matters of public interest,” he said.
In the same month, Justice Dolan recommended the coronials commission should investigate how the state’s high court system was operating, including allegations of misconduct by judges.
In March, the commission published its report on the coronas coronial inquests.
In its interim report, the court was criticized for failing to address a number of questions raised by the inquiry.
A new coronas inquests is expected to report in 2018.
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