Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
20 December 2011

The end of the year

It has been a long year, with so many political and constitutional twists and turns that it sometimes seemed hard to keep track of events and of who is up and who is down in our politics. The latest seemingly outrageous decision of a Parole Board to release two of the Waterkloof 4 killers to house arrest is just the latest in a long line of questionable decisions made this year by various officials.

I tried to ascertain – by reading the relevant sections of the Correctional Services Act – whether the release of the 2 Waterkloof killers were unlawful, but that Act is not easy to understand and I am just about to embark on holiday and, for the time being, was defeated by the complicated provisions of that Act.

What did strike me is the manner in which this case has been reported in especially parts of the Afrikaans media. Unlike with Schabir Shailk, where the reporting focused on the possible abuse of power in ordering Shaik’s release, some Afrikaans media outlets have been treating this case as if the Waterkloof killers have been the victims of a terrible injustice. How the cold blooded killers of a homeless man can ever be seen as victims is beyond me. I guess sometimes in our society race and language solidarity trumps everything else – including considerations of justice.

In any case, this is probably my last post for the year. I will be back early in the new year. Hope all readers of this Blog have a good holiday.

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