Who is damaging the public's confidence in the administration of justice?
February 3, 2021
Many people have contacted us, horrified at the attack Magistrate Gett launched on Serene Teffaha this week on 3 February 2021, in a matter where she is representing a grandmother, who is attempting to protect her grandson, after he made direct disclosures of abuse to her. Serene is representing the grandmother on a pro bono basis.
See the report in the Queensland Times here.
The child also made direct disclosures to Queensland police's Child Protection Unit (CPU), yet there were no investigations done.
The grandmother, who had full custody of the child at the time, acted with the intention of removing him from harm, and in doing so was then arrested and charged with child stealing, with allegations of abduction levelled at her by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). She was then placed in a monitoring ankle bracelet for a period of over two and a half years, and denied access to the child. Those who sought to provide protection and refuge for her and the child are also being prosecuted.
When the grandmother approached Serene, she had become the target of new charges of conspiracy to defeat justice, yet all she was seeking to do was protect her grandson.
The evidence of the child's disclosures has been placed on the court file by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). Serene then sought to make written submissions for the Magistrate's private consideration, urging him to consider the evidence that was on the file about the child's disclosures.
Magistrate Gett has now committed the grandmother and the other co-defendants to a criminal trial. However, as a result of his personal attack on her, which subsequently made her private submissions public, Serene is being forced to defend herself, which has brought the child's disclosures to light. When questioned by Magistrate Gett, Serene insisted that her only duty to the court was to be truthful and transparent at all times.
Magistrate Gett characterised Serene's private submissions to him on behalf of her client, in which she urged the court, police and the judiciary to listen to the child's voice and protect him, as "prejudicial to or diminish[ing] the public confidence in the administration of justice".
Serene is under both legislative and ethical obligations to report information that puts a child’s welfare and safety at risk, but so are police officers, judges, politicians and prosecutors.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that a decision by the judiciary and the court has enabled ongoing abuse to take place, is it really a breach of a solicitor’s fundamental duty to call it out? Or is it a breach of a civic duty not to? Could the response from Magistrate Gett be construed as using bullying tactics to protect and conceal the damning truth?
And what is to be made of the punishment of a grandmother for seeking to protect her grandson?
Perhaps, to paraphrase a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks”
Since the Magistrate has brought up this issue of public confidence and threatened to report Serene to the Queensland Legal Services Board, to have her practicing licence in Queensland removed, our clients thought it was a good idea to ask the public: Who do you think is damaging public confidence in the administration of justice?
Have your say by taking the survey.