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Magistrate suggests family violence victim wanted beating

A magistrate has shocked those in his court by saying a female family violence victim wanted to be beaten up. Generic picture
A magistrate has shocked those in his court by saying a female family violence victim wanted to be beaten up. Generic picture

CONTROVERSIAL magistrate Richard Pithouse shocked those in his court by saying a female family violence victim wanted to be beaten up.

Mr Pithouse openly criticised the terrified victim for not swearing statements against her alleged attacker.

He did so despite police telling him she was in fear of her former partner.

"Well, it's her right to be beaten up if she wants to I suppose," Mr Pithouse said during the alleged offender's recent bail application.

Police in Werribee Magistrates' Court were stunned when Mr Pithouse ignored their application to keep the victim's former partner in custody and instead criticised her for not making statements to police about his alleged violent attacks on her.

Magistrate Richard Pithouse. Picture: Hamilton Spectator.
Magistrate Richard Pithouse. Picture: Hamilton Spectator.

Mr Pithouse had earlier been told by police that the accused, whose history of violent offending included aggravated burglary, robbery and assault with a weapon "is listed as, and remains, a high risk recidivist for family violence".

He was also warned by police that the only way to ensure the safety of the man's former partner and their child was to jail him as "no condition of bail or condition of a family violence intervention order imposed on the accused" would be sufficient to protect them.

Despite the police position, Mr Pithouse granted the man bail. He said he was doing so because "the strength of the police case here is pitiful".

"If the alleged victim keeps inviting him back, which has obviously happened over the last 12 months, I'm not a social engineer, why am I supposed to be excluding him?" Mr Pithouse said in court.

"She won't make statements, she won't make complaints. What am I to do?"

Mr Pithouse also threw out a charge of possessing the drug ice during a different family violence case

"You don't need to plead to that, there's no such charge in law," he said.

He dismissed the charge earlier this year because the police charge sheet listed the offence as possessing ice, the drug's well-known street name, rather than the technically correct term of possessing methylamphetamine.

Police were concerned in both family violence cases that Mr Pithouse granted the accused men bail despite prosecutors opposing it on the grounds releasing them would put the victims at further risk.

The Chief Magistrate, Judge Peter Lauritsen, on Friday said Mr Pithouse regretted the way he expressed his comments about it being the victim's right to be beaten up.

But he said the comments were "directed to the weight to be given to evidentiary material" and needed to be taken in the context of the evidence presented to the court.

Mr Lauritsen said Mr Pithouse was right to strike out the ice charge as "a court can only determine criminal charges that are properly drafted".

"The Magistrates' Court of Victoria maintains a program of continuing legal education and professional development overseen by an education committee," he said when asked by the Herald Sun to comment on Mr Pithouse's comments and decisions.

"Where appropriate, I will refer matters raised in the article to the committee for consideration."

 

Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen
Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen

It's not the first time Mr Pithouse's actions have caused concern.

The Herald Sun previously revealed in a series of articles in 2010 that Mr Pithouse:

MISTAKENLY drove to Ararat court when he was supposed to go to Ballarat court and after doing a U-turn and arriving late in Ballarat he created outrage when he made up for lost time by scrapping the heartfelt victim impact statement of a sexual assault victim who had flown from Queensland so she could read it to her attacker.

REFUSED to extend an interim intervention order granted by the courts to protect a schoolboy whose repeated verbal, psychological and physical attacks included his tormentors making a DVD depicting him being shot - the bullies started abusing him again soon after the order was lifted.

REJECTED a police application for an intervention order to protect the wife of a violent prisoner who was later stalked and attacked by her former partner.

Mr Pithouse, a former Hamilton solicitor, was appointed as a magistrate in 2008 by the then Labor Attorney-General, Rob Hulls.

Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack wouldn't comment specifically on Mr Pithouse's comments, but on Friday said the safety of women and children in family violence cases should be a priority for all magistrates.

"Lack of faith that the system, including the justice system, will keep them safe is exactly why women hesitate or refrain from making statements against their attacker," she told the Herald Sun.

Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack
Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack

"When the system fails women, the perpetrator will often exact revenge on women for taking actions to protect themselves.

"The Royal Commission heard story after story of women and children being failed by the system because of a lack of understanding about the dynamics of family violence and of the risks associated with it, including family violence related murders of women and children.

"The Commission therefore recommended training on family violence for all court staff.

"It also recommended that the risk of family violence be considered in bail applications.

"The community has a very clear expectation that every member of the judiciary play a strong role in keeping women and children safe.

"As part of the abuse, women are often told that nobody will believe them and that they will be made to pay if they speak out against the perpetrator.

"Magistrates must be able to make decisions based on the level of risk of family violence, not to place blame or expose someone to greater risk of harm."

keith.moor@news.com.au

Topics:  domestic violence dv misogyny rape culture victim blaming



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