Annual Judges service at the /Albert /St /Uniting /Church. picBob/Fenney headshot Judge Douglas John McGill. - wig
Annual Judges service at the /Albert /St /Uniting /Church. picBob/Fenney headshot Judge Douglas John McGill. - wig

Judge’s parting shot at paedophile ‘protection’

A RETIRING judge has called for a "scandalous" piece of Queensland legislation to be abolished, likening it to a "get of jail free" card for paedophiles.

District Court judge John McGill retired from the bench after 23 years yesterday, using his valedictory speech to take aim at legislation that means juries are kept in the dark about a defendant's other alleged victims.

"Something else needed is legislation to abolish the terrible rule that, where there are multiple child victims of a particular sex offender, in virtually all cases there must be a separate trial for each victim," he said.

"This is the greatest 'get out of jail free' card for paedophiles the courts have ever come up with.

"I consider it a scandal that juries are, in this way, not being told the full story."

 

Judge John McGill
Judge John McGill

 

Judge McGill said the worst part of his job was having to watch defendants acquitted because the jury "did not know what I knew, that there were two or four or a dozen or more other victims waiting in the wings who could say, but were not allowed to say, 'He did it to me too.'

"This is a major problem, because most paedophiles do not confine themselves to one victim, at least when there is no prompt complaint from the first," he said.

"If there are two or more children in a household, for the jury to be told, in effect, that only one was abused paints a misleading picture.

"It is a scandal that this rule remains, despite the recommendation of the royal commission, and the Government should stop dragging its feet on this."

His sentiments were shared by Bruce Morcombe, father of murdered Sunshine Coast boy Daniel, who last week slammed the Government for dropping its plans to allow for past convictions to be raised with juries.

 

In his farewell speech, Judge McGill also spoke of a need to bring the justice system into the 21st century.

"In my view there is a great deal which needs to change to bring up to date a criminal justice system which is largely as it was set up at the end of the 19th century," he said.

"I mean no criticism of Sir Samuel's (Griffith) sterling work when I say that a system, which was essentially developed to control what was then seen as the misbehaviour of the lower classes, struggles in the 21st century."

Judge McGill also called for an overhaul of the equipment used to record interviews with child victims, saying the technical failing were sabotaging a beneficial reform.

"The use of videotaped evidence of children… would be wonderful if the jury could actually hear the child every time," he said.

"But all too often, particularly with a young child, talking somewhat reluctantly to a stranger about something embarrassing, the child can barely be heard, because the equipment used by the police is, frankly, hopeless.

"I am not a sound engineer; but they exist, and should be turned loose on this system, to devise a way to make all the children clearly audible.

"Money needs to be spent on this, but the current system is letting down child victims."

Judge McGill retires after 23 years on the bench and will serve as an ordinary member of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.



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