13 March 2023

Magistrate who told society to 'wake up' was too emotive, appeal finds

| Albert McKnight
court building

Queanbeyan Local Court Magistrate Roger Clisdell has been criticised by the NSW Supreme Court. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A Queanbeyan magistrate dismissed the charges against an ex-teacher, accused of assaulting a student, during a colourful rant, including remarking, “the whole world has gone completely and totally insane”.

“Gee, I wish I could go back and sue all my teachers from primary school,” Magistrate Roger Clisdell said.

“This is a classic case of the insanity that has overtaken society in the 21st century; it started in the 1980s when we advised students that they had rights, and we took away the control and power of firstly parents then teachers, then the police, and even the courts.

“So, what do I get in court on a regular basis? I get people from a generation who never experienced discipline at school and never had [a] report saying they’d failed, who never came last in a race, come in here [in their] T-shirt and thongs and say, ‘What ya want, mate?'”

But the NSW Supreme Court has found it was “regrettable” the magistrate used “emotive language” and granted an appeal over his decision, which means the teacher will face her charges again.

The teacher was handed two counts of assault over the alleged incident in March 2021. She was accused of striking a seven-year-old boy, a student in her class at a primary school, in the shoulder.

While she admitted the contact, she argued it was in the defence of another student and had her charges dismissed last year at the end of the Queanbeyan Local Court hearing.

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“The insanity of allowing lunatics to run an asylum has become endemic in our society and the courts cop criticism all the time because we don’t stand up for what people see as proper values,” Magistrate Clisdell said in his reasons for his decision.

“One of the problems we’ve got is three million pieces of legislation that control every breathing moment of our lives and whether you walk down the street in the wrong direction, or that you don’t use your indicator in your car as you leave a roundabout, whether you cough inappropriately, whether you pick your nose in public, the whole world has gone completely and totally insane.”

The magistrate said the teacher appeared to have been a “fantastic primary school teacher” before she was sacked over the allegations, while the boy was a “constant nuisance” and had potentially been acting like “a dangerous idiot”.

“Now, either we wake up as a society and start putting the adults back in charge, rather than the juveniles, or our society will go the way of the Roman Empire, it will collapse,” he said.

“Shame on the Education Department because they are setting a ‘bar’ which is impossible to meet and if they end up with no teachers it’ll be their own fault.”

But the prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court, which published its decision on Thursday (9 March) and found Magistrate Clisdell failed to make relevant findings in his reasonings.

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Judge Sarah McNaughton said it appeared this matter resonated with the magistrate “in an inappropriately emotional way”, as well as in a way that caused him to stray from “calmly assessing the evidence, making findings, making a judicial decision and providing reasons”.

The appeal was allowed and Judge McNaughton remitted the case to the local court for it to be determined by a magistrate other than Magistrate Clisdell.

According to an outline of the allegations, students had been packing up their classroom at the end of the day when it is alleged the teacher thought she saw the child with small blocks in his hands while his hands were in front of his pants and were “really close” to another student’s face.

“I yelled out, ‘Stop. That’s not appropriate.’ He didn’t stop,” she said.

She said she pushed the child’s arm away from behind, describing it as “a reflex to push his arm away … so that his hands would not be so close to the other student’s face” and “his hands wouldn’t be on that part of his body”.

Photos taken two days after the alleged incident showed a bruise on the boy’s shoulder.

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