Labor launches attack on Aboriginal magistrate

Issue 

The NSW Labor government has launched a broadside attack against Aboriginal magistrate Pat O'Shane in the lead-up to the March 24 state elections.

On January 16, deputy premier and police minister John Watkins called on the Judicial Commission to investigate O'Shane for alleged bias against police after she acquitted a person who'd been accused of spitting at two rail transit officers.

Watkins said he was mystified and "bloody angry" that the accused man had not been found guilty. He called on the Judicial Commission to investigate all of O'Shane's past rulings.

Liberal opposition leader Peter Debnam welcomed the move. "I'm pleased that the police minister has taken up my suggestion yesterday, where I said that the Judicial Commission has to investigate all of Pat O'Shane's cases",he said.

Socialist Alliance candidate Jakalene X (aka Jakalene Extreme) told Green Left Weekly that Labor was attacking O'Shane "because she is Aboriginal and because she has a commitment to social justice".

"The rail cops on the [security] video [released to the media] looked very comfortable, they didn't look like they felt threatened at all", she said.

"Instead of an inquiry into O'Shane, we really need an inquiry into the police corruption that takes place every day under Watkins' watch.

"The Tamworth case [where the council tried to stop Sudanese refugees settling] just indicates the deep-seated racism that exists in our society and then they dare to condemn one Aboriginal magistrate who should be celebrated not vilified."

Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson told the media that out of more than 200,000 cases in 2005, there were 11,500 appeals against severity of sentences but only 34 against sentences criticised for being too lenient. Law Society president Geoff Dunlevy pointed out that in 86% of cases the accused either pleaded guilty or was found guilty. It was a small minority who were found not guilty, he said.