Top judge refuses to defend Otago judge's remarks

Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue. Photo: NZ Herald
Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue. Photo: NZ Herald

The Chief District Court Judge has refused to "defend" comments made by a Queenstown judge who, during a domestic violence sentencing, told the offender "There would be many people who would have done exactly what you did".

The defendant, who has name suppression, was sentenced in the Queenstown District Court on Monday by Judge John Brandts-Giesen.

The man was convicted of assaulting his wife, his children and a male friend.

The assault came after the 58-year-old spied a text between his wife and the friend about their love for each other.

Judge Brandts-Giesen discharged the man without conviction, saying it was a "nasty assault" but had to be seen in context.

"Really, this is a situation that does your wife no credit and does the [male] no credit," he said in sentencing.

"There would be many people who would have done exactly what you did, even though it may be against the law to do so.

"I consider that the consequences of a conviction are out of all proportion to what happened on this occasion."

Judge Brandts-Giesen's comments were met with outrage from victim advocates who work in the field of domestic violence.

And today Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue weighed in.

It is extremely rare for Judge Doogue - or any other judge - to comment on the actions of their peers.

Judges are independent and as such, do not have to justify or explain their decisions.

"I cannot comment on the case at this stage because it may be the subject of appeal," said Judge Doogue.

"But to the extent that the judge may have expressed himself inappropriately in any event, I do not seek to defend his remarks.

"And I am sure on further reflection neither would he."

Yesterday police confirmed they are "reviewing" Judge Brandts-Giesen's decision.

They may appeal the sentence.

However Crown Law said an appeal, which must be filed within a month, had yet to be received.

New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world, and in recent years the police have ramped up efforts to reduce and prevent it, and to raise awareness and encourage victims to report violence.

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