Threat to Judicial Independence – Law Society of South Australia

LAWFUEL – The Australia Legal Jobs & Newswire – Mr Dennis Hood, member of the Legislative Council, has criticised Judge Marie Shaw of the District Court for suspending the prison sentence of Christopher Niehus following his conviction for admitted sex offences.

The Law Society expresses great concern that a member of parliament would suggest that a Judge of the District Court should be removed from office as a consequence of a sentencing decision. Judicial pronouncements can and should be the subject of public debate but if they are incorrect in principle, the correct way to deal with them is by appeal to a higher court, not by seeking to sack the judge.

Judges are independent of both Government and Parliament for a very good reason; they are meant to make their decisions without fear or favour and free from political influence.

As for the sentence against Mr Niehus; it should be looked at in the context of the Judge’s sentencing remarks. They can be found at the Court website at If there is to be public debate, it should be about the appropriateness of the sentence in light of the facts, not about the Judge’s fitness to hold office.

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