Dreadful comments show how out of touch magistrate is
IT'S little wonder that some in this community consider 'the law is an ass' when you see the sentences and comments being made by magistrates like Bernadette Callaghan.
At a time when the Sunshine Coast community is reeling from the deaths of two much-loved people from coward punches, Ms Callaghan appeared to belittle 'one punch can kill' campaigns as the invention of newspaper editors.
Tell that to Paul Stanley, who has been campaigning against such violence since his 15-year-old son was killed at a party in September 2006.
Tell that to the families of our recent Coast victims.
As the police prosecutor told Ms Callaghan: "Your honour sits in this jurisdiction and certainly the prevalence of incidents in clubs and pubs is certainly becoming quite common these days.''
"Not as common as domestic violence,'' Ms Callaghan responded before she went on to talk about International Women's Day.
She may be right, but the timing of her comment - and the context of it - given she was sentencing someone involved in a cowardly punch, was appalling.
But Ms Callaghan is no stranger to controversy.
She is despised by police for her 'lenient' sentences.
By some accounts, defence lawyers will do anything to ensure that their clients are before her.
Ms Callaghan, in sentencing Virgil Macquarie Power, 29, remarkably found that he was not the perpetrator of 'gratuitous' violence.
Mr Power is the son of a Noosa solicitor, grandson of a judge, and great-great great grandson of a Supreme Court judge.
Instead, she spent much of her sentencing remarks, attacking the victim, 23-year-old Michael Halbauer, who suffered extensive damage to his face and teeth, resulting in almost $24,000 in medical expenses.
Ms Callaghan found Power that 'very concerned about the behaviour' of Mr Halbauer who she said acted aggressively towards him.
The magistrate gave great weight to the many references submitted on Mr Power's behalf, the fact that he had completed his law degree, had pleaded guilty and offered to pay all medical expenses.
"All of his friends who were with the defendant on the night describe him as a non-violent person. Given this and the circumstances leading up to the offence, I find that this is behaviour completely out of character.''
It is staggering that she then records no conviction against Mr Power - and gives him just 240 hours of community service.
I think many would find this magistrate is consistently acting outside of the community's expectations.
Sentences for such violence need to be significant. This was a slap on the wrist and one executed in an appalling way.
Perhaps it's time we start electing our magistrates and judges. Maybe then, they might perform to community standards rather than running their own pithy agendas.