|Judge Michael Finnane|
So much for "justice" being blind!
By Peter Bodkin
A child-sex offender has failed to have a judge banned from sentencing him after a court found comments that all paedophiles should be "starved to death" were meant to be "mischievous and light-hearted".
The convicted paedophile, who cannot be named, lodged a Court of Appeal action to stop Judge Michael Finnane from dealing with any criminal charges against him following the remarks, allegedly made in March last year.
The judge is claimed to have made the comments at a morning tea after the swearing-in of another District Court judge.
In an affidavit, solicitor Greg Walsh said Judge Finnane approached him with a cup of tea in hand and said: "G'day Greg, representing another paedophile are you?"
Mr Walsh was appearing for the child-sex offender, who had been recently arraigned before the judge on 12 charges of indecently assaulting seven boys.
The judge then allegedly said: "Well, you know what should be done with all these paedophiles? They should be put on an island and starved to death ... that's the best thing for them."
The paedophile was previously found guilty of sexually abusing girls in a 2010 jury trial the judge presided over. He called on Judge Finnane to disqualify himself from the sentencing after Mr Walsh told the paedophile's wife about the comments.
Judge Finnane refused to stand himself down after telling a court he was "absolutely certain" that he hadn't discussed the sex offender's case with Mr Walsh or made the comments as claimed.
In a decision this week, the Court of Appeal threw out an attempt to have the judge barred from further handling the paedophile's case or hearing any fresh allegations against him.
Justice John Meagher said the comments, if made as suggested, were made "incautiously" but in an out-of-court social setting with a solicitor the judge had known for years.
He said the suggestion that all paedophiles be starved to death on an island was "exaggerated and not to be taken literally". Mr Walsh also claimed Judge Finnane said all accused sex offenders were guilty after another judge suggested he was biased. But Justice Meagher said the statement was also "unlikely to have been intended to be taken seriously".
Justice Meagher said: "It is also consistent with the first comment having been mischievous and light-hearted".
The paedophile had argued the judge's comments indicated a "formed view" on punishment for child-sex offenders and meant he might not be open to persuasion at a sentencing hearing.
Justice Meagher said it was expected judges would have opinions but they were expected to put those opinions aside during proceedings.