The Judicial Commission of Victoria has stood down a Victorian magistrate who once described an alleged rape victim as having “buyer’s remorse”, while it investigates a new complaint regarding his in-court behaviour.
Magistrate Richard Pithouse had been investigated in 2018 for his comments to the alleged rape victim, which he made after being told the woman called a sexual assault crisis line the morning after the alleged sexual assault.
In 2021, the commission found the remark, which Pithouse made during a Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal hearing, to be highly inappropriate and insensitive.
However, Pithouse kept his position and the commission recommended he be counselled over his conduct by Chief Magistrate Lisa Hannan and a retired County Court judge.
The commission and Magistrates’ Court considered the matter closed in 2021 after Pithouse reportedly accepted the criticism of his conduct and acknowledged the shortcomings in his approach.
The commission has now revealed that a fresh complaint was lodged in September about Pithouse’s in-court behaviour.
The detail of the new complaint has not yet been revealed.
The commission will consider whether Pithouse’s conduct amounted to “proved misbehaviour or incapacity of the officer” and stood him down from court duties while it investigated.
If he was kept in his role, the commission said, it would impair public confidence in the magistrate’s impartiality, independence or integrity.
Pithouse, who became a magistrate in 2008, will now only be able to perform work in chambers and will not hear any matters in open or closed court until further notice.
In 2010 Pithouse denied a sexual assault survivor the right to have their victim impact statement read to the court on the grounds that it was provided too late for consideration before sentencing.
In 2017, the commission reprimanded the magistrate for making inappropriate comments toward a victim of domestic violence during a bail application that year.
When informed that the victim did not make a statement to the police, Pithouse said: “It’s her right to get beaten up if she wants to, I suppose.”
He was also charged in 2018 over a traffic accident in Spotswood when he failed to immediately stop at the scene and report details of the crash to the police.
The latest complaint has been referred to an investigating panel and the examination was ongoing, the commission said.
Source – https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/magistrate-stood-down-for-probe-of-new-complaint-over-in-court-conduct-20230206-p5ci8z.html