9 March 2022

New ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum wants to open conversation on 'building communities, not prisons'

| Albert McKnight
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ACT Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucy McCallum sitting on a bench

The new ACT Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucy McCallum was sworn in on Tuesday, which was also International Women’s Day. Photo: Albert McKnight.

The new chief justice for the ACT wants more money spent on a proactive approach to preventing incarceration, so less is spent putting people in jail.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum was sworn in to the ACT Supreme Court and welcomed to the Territory on Tuesday, 8 March, while the former chief justice Helen Murrell was also thanked for her work in the role since 2013.

“Chief Justice McCallum’s passion for reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system will be of great assistance in improving the way we do justice in the Territory,” Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said.

Chief Justice McCallum described the over-incarceration of First Nations people as a “national tragedy” and said everyone needed to become part of the conversation around the issue.

She also wanted to open a conversation around “building communities, not prisons” as well as “addressing endemic problems rather than coming in as a repairer”.

For instance, she said she had heard it reported Australia spent 97 per cent of flood relief funding “mopping up” after such disasters and three per cent of the budget preparing for them.

“It’s the same idea. We need to spend more money investing in preventing the problem and dysfunctional family circumstances so that we spend less money incarcerating people,” she said.

READ ALSO New Chief Justice puts ACT’s high Indigenous incarceration rate on priority list

Chief Justice McCallum was sworn in on International Women’s Day and when asked what she thought about the level of representation of women in Australia’s judiciary and what could be done to encourage more to join, she said she was not in favour of quotas.

“I think the way to encourage greater representation is to have women in leadership who can then support other women,” Chief Justice McCallum said.

“I have had the good fortune to be immensely supported by a group of female judges younger than me.

“Younger women now coming through have created this beautiful network of support and [have been] looking after each other and I think that’s what will develop and encourage more women to persevere to get to positions of leadership.”

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury and Chief Justice Lucy McCallum

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury welcomed the new Chief Justice Lucy McCallum at her swearing in on Tuesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

She added the ACT Supreme Court had an “excellent” level of representation, with an equal number of “judicial brothers and judicial sisters”.

Chief Justice McCallum also talked about the need for the courts to have a media officer to assist journalists and she wanted to look at a one-way social media page run by the courts to help provide case summaries to the public.

Chief Justice McCallum’s predecessor Ms Murrell was the first woman appointed as chief justice for the Supreme Court.

READ ALSO ACT’s new online jury management system replaces ‘labour-intensive’ model

“Under her leadership of the ACT Supreme Court, the Drug and Alcohol Sentencing List was established, new case management and listing practices saw a significant reduction in hearing delays and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for the court were successfully navigated,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“These adaptations in procedure have amounted to very real improvements in the lives of people coming before the court and they provide a fantastic basis to continue this legacy.”

He said Chief Justice McCallum had an extensive legal career and was appointed a judge of the NSW Supreme Court in 2008 as well as in the NSW Court of Appeal in 2019.

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Rattenbury was jail minister for 8 years (2012-2020). In that time, his lack of interest and ideological bent made the already horrendous AMC much, much worse. He dragged his feet on the expansion, covered his ears when the leaks about non-existent mental health supports came out, delayed the inquest release for the OD death by an aboriginal inmate (the inquest report was supposed to come out before the 2016 election, but mysteriously was “delayed” until after, presumably to help him dodge accountability), ignored the union, watched passively as violence and drug abuse skyrocketed and recidivism jumped, etc, etc etc. He soothed his social conscience with delusions, whilst high-risk high-needs offenders came out worse than when they went in.

And now as AG, he’s appointed a soft-serve judge who will continue his fantasy. The ACT Govt has become a protection racket for ministerial incompetence. With comments like those made by the new CJ indicating the culture she’ll set with her colleagues, prepare to read years of awful headlines about preventable tragedies because dangerous people were left amongst us. Most victims will be women and children.

I have asked this question before.

Is one group of people over represented in our prison system because they are getting harsher penalties for similar offences or is that group over represented because they are committing more crime?

The two different scenario’s require entirely different approaches to rectify.

The ACT seems very soft on crime as it is. All too often you hear news reports with words such as “the offender was out on bail” or “the offender broke parole/good behaviour bond”.

Prevention (from becoming a criminal) is better than cure (locking crims up).

Protecting women and children from violent recidivist men would be a very good start. This could be done by passing sentences involving actual terms of imprisonment. Not intensive corrections orders and the like.

Exactly finagen This is another reason why we packed up and left Canberra, not enough cops and when they catch somebody all they get is a small on the wrist at best

Smack not ‘small’ damm you auto correct

Finagen_Freeman4:01 pm 09 Mar 22

Heaven help us. Her role is criminal justice. Social welfare is seperate (although linked).

Building communities, means protecting them from those who leach and steal and enact violence. That means removal from that community.

Start there and start locking up. Stop being soft on those who hurt others.

Capital Retro2:52 pm 09 Mar 22

I understood that the duties of a Supreme Court judge were to hear and evaluate arguments and evidence in civil and criminal summary matters, decide penalties and sentences within statutory limits, such as fines, bonds and detention, awarding damages in civil matters, and issuing court orders.

The sort of change she is talking about can only be enacted through the political process which is constitutionally separated from the judicial one.

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