NSW judge’s suicide spray over ‘absurd’ workload

JUDGES may be driven to suicide because of crippling workloads, a NSW judge warned as she unleashed a tirade on the state's judicial system yesterday.

Outspoken NSW District Court Judge Robyn Tupman let rip in Sydney's Downing Centre Court yesterday after learning she was expected to hand down seven sentences in one day.

Judge Tupan said she and her colleagues were the victims of "institutional cruelty" and feared some judicial officers may take their own lives, as they had done in Victoria.

"I fear for the wellbeing of many of my colleagues on this bench who have much less experience, are much younger and perhaps aren't quite the bastard that I am," Judge Tupan said in front of a stunned public gallery.

 

Judge Robyn Tupman.
Judge Robyn Tupman.

"I do hope that we don't have the tragic outcome in NSW that has occurred in Melbourne because of the extraordinary workload," she said.

Her comments were a reference to Melbourne Magistrate Stephen Myall, 59, who committed suicide in March this year and another magistrate who took her own life in late 2017.

Magistrate Myall's wife Joanne Duncan has spoken publicly about how she believes his unrelenting workload contributed to his death.

Yesterday NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said he would review Judge Tupman's comments and was committed to reducing the District Court case backlog.

He said the government had pumped $86 million into the state's justice system since 2016 and employed five more District Court judges.

Judge Tupman, who acquitted alleged nightclub rapist Luke Lazurus in 2017, said the current workload of judicial officers was "ridiculous, absurd and offensive to the people of NSW."

"It seems to me that there are some judicial officers in Australia with a less robust temperament than me … who can't cope with that and it's something that needs to be looked at," she said.

"I've become aware this morning many of my colleagues are in a similar position, they may not be inclined to speak out but I do.

"Let's not muck around, we don't want Judges in NSW committing suicide."

The NSW District Court currently has 68 permanent judges that have to deal with 2009 cases pending criminal trials.

The NSW District Court currently has 68 permanent judges that have to deal with 2009 cases pending criminal trials.
The NSW District Court currently has 68 permanent judges that have to deal with 2009 cases pending criminal trials.

 

Earlier this year the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research released figures which revealed the average case took 716 days to finalise from the time of arrest to resolution.

Judge Tupman said the current workload did not "pass the pub test" and said there needed to be more resources, judges and courthouses "so that all cases can be dealt with properly".

A spokesman for Mr Speakman said the Judicial Commission of NSW offered a free 24-hour counselling service for judicial officers as part of the Judicial Assistance Program.

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