A family law case will be reheard after a court found the judge abused his power and been “cruel, insulting, humiliating and rude” toward the dad's legal team.
A family law case will be reheard after a court found the judge abused his power and been “cruel, insulting, humiliating and rude” toward the dad's legal team.

‘Belittling’: Judge’s cruel attack on lawyers

Townsville's Federal Circuit Court judge was "cruel, insulting, humiliating and rude" towards Queen's Counsel Graeme Page and solicitor Michael Dwyer representing a father in a family law case.

The Full Court of the Family Court found Judge Guy Andrew also was "hectoring, insulting, belittling, sarcastic and rude" in his treatment of Mr Dwyer.

The Full Court said Judge Andrew abused the power of his position, he failed to afford the father a fair trial and he displayed apprehended bias.

Three Full Court judges ordered a rehearing of the parenting and property settlement case before a different Federal Circuit judge.

"The tone, nature and ferocity of His Honour's comments could never be seen as justified," the judges said.

It resulted in the father not getting a fair trial and raised apprehended bias, that no matter what the father's case was as presented, it would be rejected, the judges said.

Judge Guy Andrew was appointed Townsville's full-time Federal Circuit Court Judge in March, last year, after concerns were raised that the community had been left without a FCC judge for a month.

The Full Court judges commented on the nature, content and number of Judge Andrew's interruptions, criticisms and "ad hominem attacks" on Graeme Page, QC.

Mr Page has been a silk for 26 years and has lectured in family law for the Bar Association of Queensland.

The Full Court judgment said a fair-minded observer of the judge's treatment of Mr Page might think the judge might not bring an impartial mind to the issues for the father's case.

 

"Indeed, such a fair-minded observer might well think that His Honour bore significant animus towards Queen's Counsel," the judges said.

There was no basis for the judge to impugn the professionalism of the father's QC "in the manner he did or at all", the Full Court judges said.

About two hours into the third day of the hearing Mr Page sought leave to withdraw from proceedings and Gold Coast solicitor Mr Dwyer continued to represent the father.

Mr Page had withdrawn, after the judge's personal attacks on his conduct in court, his dress and demeanour, in the hope that it would improve the atmosphere in the proceedings.

The judges said Judge Andrew's conduct worsened in exchanges with Mr Dwyer.

They said Judge Andrew took inappropriate advantage of the "undoubted" power imbalance that exists between the judge and the lawyer, Mr Dwyer.

"Indeed, counsel for the mother conceded during oral argument on the appeal, that it amounted to bullying by the judge," the judges said.

The case before Judge Andrew was about the mother's wish to relocate the seven-year-old child's residence from NSW to Brisbane.

After a three day hearing, Judge Andrew ordered that the child live with the mother, but they have equal shared parental responsibility.

On August 28, Full Court Justices Steven Strickland, Ann Ainslie-Wallace and Garry Watts set aside the judge's orders and allowed the father's appeal.

Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge Will Alstergren, said Judge Andrew had been counselled, mentored and closely monitored since concerns were raised with the court.

Additional judicial education and support mechanisms had been put in place for Judge Andrew, who was "relatively new" when the trial was head, Judge Alstergren said.

He said Judge Andrew has been sitting in a single-Judge registry, which could present a number of challenges.

"All court users, including litigants and legal practitioners, should rightly expect to be treated with respect when they come to court to have their matter dealt with or to undertake their work," Judge Alstergren said.

Originally published as 'Belittling': Judge's cruel attack on lawyers


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