Law body worried over attack on judiciary as Dutton steps up 'African gangs' rhetoric

The Law Institute of Victoria has said it is “extremely concerned” about political attacks on the judiciary after the federal home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, blamed the state’s street crime on the appointment of “civil libertarians” to the courts.

Dutton, who has previously said Victorians were “afraid to go out to dinner” doubled down on comments he made on Thursday – when he stated there was a “problem with some of the judges and magistrates … and some of the bail decisions”– by accusing the judiciary of handing down “soft sentences” on Friday.

Speaking to Melbourne radio station 3AW, Dutton ramped up the Turnbull government’s attack on the Victorian Labor government and drew in the state’s judiciary.

“The solution, in part, is to make sure that the appointments that you’re making to the magistrates’ court, are people who will impose sentences and will provide some deterrence to people repeatedly coming before the courts,” he said.

Daniel Andrews accuses Dutton of trying to ‘get rise out of people’ over gang comments
“So if you’re appointing civil libertarians to the magistrates’ court over a long period of time, then you will get soft sentences.”

The Law Institute of Victoria said it was “extremely concerned by the ongoing political attacks on Victorian judges, magistrates and the legal profession”.

While not singling Dutton out, its president Belinda Wilson said recent attacks on the Victorian legal sphere were “totally inappropriate and without foundation”.

“There is no place for political attacks on the judiciary and undermining the independence of our judges and magistrates,” she said in a statement.

“The community can have absolute trust in the judiciary and the legal profession in Victoria.”

The Victorian chapter of the Vietnamese Community of Australia has also come out in support of Victorians with African heritage, likening their recent treatment to the way those of Vietnamese background were treated in the 1990s.

“So we must look back and learn from this and make a distinction between the individual charged with a crime and the ethnic community from which he or she comes,” it said in a statement.