Judge Borchers’ position should be assessed: CAALAS

2454 Eileen Van IerselLETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – The Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS) has formally written to the NT Attorney-General requesting she consider assessing Judge Greg Borchers’ suitability to remain on Youth Court following his inappropriate comments to a traumatised 13-year-old offender.

 

CAALAS has also lodged a complaint with the Chief Judge of the NT Local Court about Judge Borchers’ remarks in Court on June 6.

 

Judge Borchers told the youngster when remanding him in Tennant Creek Youth Court that he had taken advantage of his mother’s murder to damage property and play truant from school.

 

In a string of grossly insensitive comments, Judge Borchers paid scant attention to evidence that the youngster’s behaviour had spiralled downward since his mother’s death in January, allegedly at the hands of his father.

 

Justice must always present a fair and compassionate face, even more so as the deep flaws in the judicial approach to young offenders in the NT are under such intense scrutiny.

 

Sadly, in this instance Judge Borchers has ignored this basic principle. This young man needs support, compassion, counselling and society’s help, not belittling.

 

Evidence presented to the court showed that the youth’s attendance at school dropped from 79% to 26% after his mother’s murder. He was in “low mood”, suffered social anxiety and was influenced by older youths, the court was told.

 

His advocate pleaded to the court that the best way forward for the 13-year-old was psychiatric care, home remand and focus on education and training.

 

We are asking for the government to give our concerns about this matter speedy consideration.

 

Eileen Van lersel (pictured above)

CEO of CAALAS

 

 

 

 

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36 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. R Henry
    Posted June 26, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    “Justice must always present a fair and compassionate face.”
    The Judge, rightly so, was showing compassion for the victims who are consistently imposed upon.
    “Even more so as the deep flaws in the judicial approach to young offenders in the NT are under such intense scrutiny.”
    Sounds a bit like some coercion on the Judges.

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  2. Poor Upset Careful with that jibe, Eugene
    Posted June 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Alex, of course one part-time worker with CAALAS is not able to, in your words, “work closely with EVERY SINGLE young person going throughout Central Australian court system, their family, community, lawyer, school and other service-providers to provide the young person with the support they need to get back on track and stay out of trouble”.
    That is exactly my point, and why it is wrong for you to lay the blame on that worker, as you did when you wrote “if your PART-TIME advocacy programme co-ordinator did her job after this child’s court appearance in March, then he wouldn’t have appeared in court again in May.”
    As I said earlier: That advocacy programme co-ordinator performed her job with great diligence and dedication, and cannot be held to blame for any alleged failure of duty of care, as the case load of such cases far exceeds the ability of one worker to cover even a small proportion of them. She was doing her job very well, covering as many of the cases as she could, but she wasn’t a magician. So your cheap jibe at her reputation is wrongly placed, and you should withdraw it.

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  3. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 24, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I agree with you Alex: One part-time worker with CAALAS is not able to “work closely with EVERY SINGLE young person going through Central Australian court system, their family, community, lawyer, school and other service-providers to provide the young person with the support they need to get back on track and stay out of trouble”. But has CAALAS asked for more help?

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  4. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 24, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    Peter, it is obvious that we do not see or understand the same from the court transcript.
    I see the judge interrupting the lawyer when the lawyer does not answer the question or has no clue.
    The lawyer was not prepared and I feel this lad was misrepresented.
    A judge makes judgement with the facts presented to him in a clear fashion not with “if’ and “may be”.
    In a government of laws, the responsibility of the courts is to interpret and apply the law.
    Each case before a court of law involves a controversy that the court must resolve as the institution in which every member of the community must have confidence. Each case presents its own unique set of facts and issues. The role of the judicial branch is to do justice according to law in each case.
    As Chief Justice James Spigelman AC (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales 19 May, 1998,until 31 May 2011) has explained: “The desire of bureaucrats and others to measure performance risks the wood being missed for the trees.”
    I feel it is the case here.

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  5. Peter Dixon
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    The judge kept interrupting the lawyer. What this underlines is the woefully inadequate resources for helping troubled families in Tennant Creek.

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  6. Alex
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Dear, poor, upset, taking-everything-personally “Careful With That Jibe”, please supply proof that one part-time worker with CAALAS is able to “work closely with EVERY SINGLE young person going throught Central Australian court system, their family, community, lawyer, school and other service-providers to provide the young person with the support they need to get back on track and stay out of trouble”.
    The fact that this child was back in court two months after his first appearance shows that one person CANNOT provide all this.
    If anything you should be supporting the argument that no one part time staff member – (even your super-awesome one) – can do this job on only a part-time basis.
    Both you should be shouting out that there needs to be change within CAALAS and using this case as a basis for your arguments to get more funding and more staff for this area.

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  7. John Bell
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Now that Judge Borchers has placed the lad in a controlled environment for proper assessment and the dust begins to settle, some questions need to be asked:
    1. Who is to conduct the assesment process?
    2. What will the assessment process actually encompass ie what will be the terms of reference ?
    3. Will the results be made public and in what public forum?
    4. Will the Attorney-General make publicly transparent the processing of the CAALAS complaint against Judge Borchers?
    5. Will the Chief Justice remove Judge Borchers from cases dealing with youngsters on the rampage?
    6. Will CAALAS employ someone full-time in future to care for for troubled and lawbreaking teens?
    7. Will CAALAS be asked to explain why no plan was put to the court to make sure this lad did not re-offend?
    Doubtless there are others.
    It is only complete transparency in the process of obtaining the answers to such questions in this case that will ensure the public trust can be maintained in the integrity of our youth justice system.

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  8. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    @ My view 100% with you:
    Parents and educators know that love mixed with firm discipline is what produces functional happy children.
    When we discipline children we show them that we care.
    To discipline is not to punish, is not to command obedience, it is to teach and a disciple is a student.
    The word “discipline” is from the Latin word disciplina meaning “instruction and training”. It’s derived from the root word discere – “to learn.”
    Discipline is to study, learn, train, and apply a system of standards.

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  9. Steve Brown
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    @ My View: I very much support your view.

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  10. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Careful with that Jibe, Eugene: A jibe can also be an insulting remark as another way to spell gibe (to make taunting, heckling, or jeering remarks).
    No one is called Eugene in this discussion, and if for some valid reason you cannot use your name, do not use a pseudo who can be humiliating and antagonising.
    Now could you tell what was done, and by which services, between March and May to help this troubled, traumatised lad?

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  11. MyView
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 11:49 am

    In my opinion the judge has shown a deep level of compassion for this young man.
    He obviously strongly belives all children have a right to be looked after, cared for, fed and protected.
    For probably a number of reasons this young person was not, but all of those reasons do not negate the responsibility of his family or the right of the child, who was sadly being let down.
    I also think the judge has shown how important each individual, this young man included, is to society.
    He’s demonstated that this young man is so important that we as a society can’t ignore the disrepectful behaviour. That even though it would be easier to ignore it and give the boy bail, that young man is worth the effort.
    By letting him off it sends a clear message he is not important enough to put the effort into.
    By making the stand he has the judge is showing the lad he is important as a person, far too important to let slip through the cracks. Far too important to undermine the man that boy has the potential to be.
    Allowing the current behaviour to continue would undermine the boy’s future, but would ensure the future of CAALAS.

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  12. Shock Horror
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Well the Judge did the right thing. the Lad had no home, no one to look after him and take responsibility. The Lawyer went in with the thinking, the Judge won’t lock him up due to all what is happening now with the juvenile detention issues.
    The lawyer went in unprepared, no plan as to who was going to look after the lad, who was going to care for him.
    The Judge did this so that the powers that be can assess the lad and work on a plan to allow him back into society. Brave move, Judge.

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  13. Sarah
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Surprised! Thanks for the prompt to alternatives and/or solutions.
    I agree, debate should include this. Judges have an obvious and important role in helping children to understand the implication of their offending, and it is imperative that they do this well in order not to further ostracise kids.
    Judges should engage in moral communication that focuses on harm caused by the child, and should ask critical questions that the child either overlooked or refused to consider when commiting the offence.
    Judges can and should appeal to a child’s sense of morality, empathy for the offender, guilt and remorse and encourage the child’s self reflection.
    There are many specialist youth judges who do this well, who are not seen as going “soft” on crime and offenders, and are part of a process whereby offenders begin to change their behaviours.

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  14. Careful with that Jibe, Eugene
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Evelyne Roullet, Posted June 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm: Ralph was not talking about where or how the kid should be housed. He was referring to the bigger issue of the huge trauma in his life, caused by the alleged killing of his mother by his father. Kids who experience this level of trauma need intensive help and support, and we need to make sure that they get it, from wherever it may be best available.

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  15. Careful with that Jibe, Eugene
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 11:07 pm

    Alex, on June 22, 2017 at 11:44 am you said, and I quote: “If your PART-TIME advocacy programme co-ordinator did her job after this child’s court appearance in March, then he wouldn’t have appeared in court again in May.”
    So you cast an aspersion on her. It is entirely unwarranted.
    Don’t wriggle out, apologise.

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  16. Surprised!
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Sarah, your words have no meaning unless you are prepared to make some sort of suggestion to resolve the issue. I don’t like pollies or fence sitters only because they state the obvious, but offer no clear solutions that they commit to.
    May I suggest you offer at least some sort of solution!
    Contrary to what you say, what is more humane and cost effective, is for everyone including the criminals to respect others and stop damaging other people’s property.
    In the absence of viable alternatives, respect the current laws and accept the Judge’s decision as final.
    As for CAALAS, the fact that the lawyer got smacked was a direct result of being ill prepared and Eileen’s reaction is one of a person too used to getting their own way.
    It is the epitome of DISRESPECT. It is RESPECT which is what is missing in society!

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  17. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Sarah, you said: “It is more cost effective (and humane) to help a young person realise the impact of their offending on their community and the victims, and judges (with all the respect that they command) have a hugely important role in this.”
    Yes, but I believe the offender had this explained to him on the first appearance in court, and he agreed by signing an agreement, and by his following action demonstrated that he did not give tutt about the consequences / impact of his behaviour.
    Quote: “This does not mean that judges need to wrap their words in cotton wool, in fact frank language can be used to explain the impact of their behaviour, but it should not be humiliating, nor should be antagonising.”
    Please show me and explain to me in which way the language of the Judge was humiliating and antagonising.
    Can you take the role of the judge in the full script of the court case and tell me what you would have done / said.
    I raise for decent adults in Alice Springs; they were sometime really misbehaved.
    The police will collect them, the Sargent on duty will give them the boot at the backside, take them back home where I will give them another one. They were not the only ones and I never heard a single parent complained about this treatment.

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  18. Alex
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    To “Careful With That Jibe”: I am in no way disparaging the CAALAS Youth Justice Advocacy Programme co-ordinator or her work.
    But ONE PART-TIME role will NEVER provide enough support to fully help all the youths in the Central Australian judicial system who desperately need her.
    My comment was aimed at the organisation itself and how they choose to allocate their funding.
    Where’s the official complaint against CAALAS, as they clearly don’t take the role seriously, despite your friend’s hard work?

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  19. Sarah
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Well done Eileen, this complaint and referral to the Attorney-General is well deserved and overdue.
    All the evidence shows that this sort of treatment of young offenders does not work, and certainly does not deter from further offending.
    It is more cost effective (and humane) to help a young person realise the impact of their offending on their community and the victims, and judges (with all the respect that they command) have a hugely important role in this.
    This does not mean that judges need to wrap their words in cotton wool, in fact frank language can be used to explain the impact of their behaviour, but it should not be humiliating, nor should be antagonising. I commend CAALAS for taking this action.

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  20. Do-Gooders Too Soft
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    When we were kids we feared to do wrong because of the severe punishment. Under todays soft system, we would be out of control. Sound familiar?

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  21. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Yes Ralph, of course the community must look after this troubled young man.
    But which community? And how? Send him back on the street with no support? Or put him in a rehabilitation centre / or a good boarding house where he will be disciplined and loved?
    For the ones who despair let me tell you that our dilemma with trouble youth is not new:
    “The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.”
    (From a sermon preached by Peter the Hermit in A.D. 1274)
    “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words … When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint”.
    (Hesiod, 8th century BC)
    “The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are tyrants, not servants of the households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize over their teachers.”
    Commonly attributed to Socrates by Plato.
    Of course it does not mean that we must do nothing.
    It comes to my mind that we are asked on TV or the internet to sponsor children overseas: Why not sponsor a child in our own community?

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  22. Careful with that Jibe, Eugene
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Alex, you must not know the CAALAS Youth Justice Advocacy Programme co-ordinator.
    Part-time or not, she’s one person in Alice town who could not ever be accused of not working extremely hard, with great intelligence and diligence, on these issues.
    She displays a great sense of responsibility in her work. She also has a demonstrated ability to ask recalcitrant parents the hard questions.

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  23. Hal Duell
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    A solution (way forward): In a word, bush camps.
    First offence, a warning. Second offence, three months. Third offence, six months. Fourth offence, nine months. And continuing if necessary. No excuses.
    Wholesome food and a bed of one’s own.
    Start each day with mandatory domestics. Then school in the morning and team sports in the afternoon. Again, no excuses.
    No visits, and no pass-outs. Again, no excuses.
    Either we break the cycle, or we continue as we are. Our choice, not their choice.

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  24. Alex
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Oh, and Eileen, according to your organisation’s own website: “Our youth justice program works closely with the young person, their family, community, lawyer, school and other service-providers to provide the young person with the support they need to get back on track and stay out of trouble.”
    Perhaps if your PART-TIME advocacy programme co-ordinator did her job after this child’s court appearance in March, then he wouldn’t have appeared in court again in May.
    Perhaps you might consider taking a pay cut to fund making the part-time position full-time instead.
    Clearly for the whole of Central Australia, I’m sure your poor staff member is quite swamped in the limited hours she has to do the job!!
    http://www.caalas.com.au/WHATWEDO/YouthJusticeAdvocacyProject.aspx

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  25. Alex
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Dear Eileen: “The best way forward for the 13-year-old was psychiatric care, home remand and focus on education and training.”
    Psychiatric care – the child will not attend.
    Home remand – clearly no one at home is taking responsibility for the child.
    Education and training – the child will not attend school and when he does he does not actually attend classes.
    Why don’t you foster the boy and guide him through this troubling time?
    Because he clearly doesn’t need your organisation’s inept legal aid. He needs parenting!
    Of course, you’ll probably be accused by like-minded individuals as yourself of contributing to the second Stolen Generation if you do.
    And please stop wasting the taxpayer money that you receive on such frivolous letter writing campaigns as in this episode.

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  26. Ralph Folds
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 8:07 am

    The community cannot afford to not assist this 13 year old to work through the murder of his mother.

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  27. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 5:52 am

    Surprised: I am in total agreement with the judge.
    The offender is not a child he knew what he was doing: HIS HONOUR: “You’re deliberately moving the CCTV camera so that you won’t get caught. Which is clear evidence that you knew what you were doing was wrong”.
    He had made a contract and broke it:
    HIS HONOUR: “What does my order say in March, that he signed and he said he’d agreed to? What did it say? He would go to school every day.”
    The offender had a chance and he discarded it.
    HIS HONOUR: “You’re not going back into the community. The community can’t afford you. It’s quite clear that you and your family are not going to pick up the damages for what you’ve caused. And, presumably, and I infer this, you’ve got no understanding of that. You don’t know what a first world economy is. You don’t know the difference between – you don’t know where money comes from other than the government gives it out.”
    Correct. The community cannot afford to pay non-stop for the damages causes by delinquents.
    The system of working for your pocket money disappeared and it is a pity because a child has to learn the value of things.

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  28. Hal Duell
    Posted June 22, 2017 at 1:38 am

    I sincerely hope we have more like Judge Greg Borchers, as opposed to silly feel-good twits, looking out for us when the coming summer months are upon us.

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  29. John Bell
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    While Ms van Iersel and CAALAS are lodging a complaint with the Chief Justice about Judge Borchers in a flawed youth justice system, perhaps concerned citizens should consider lodging a complaint with the NT Bar Association about Mr Bhutani, the young lad’s lawyer.
    When questioned by Judge Borchers on a plan for the lad’s rehab and welfare if released back into the community, Mr Bhutani had nothing. Zilch. No plan. No nothing, so to speak.
    A lawyer just doing the minimum to win the case. On the public purse. After the win in the court hearing they part ways – the young lad goes back on the street and the lawyer goes back to his office. To get his next brief.
    Hardly inspires confidence in our legal eagles of the common people, hey.
    If CAALAS wants a judge hauled over the coals in this case it seems to me there is evidence to haul the CAALAS lawyer over the coals, too.

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  30. Surprised!
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Evelyne, you are very correct. Unsure if you agree with the Judge or not.
    If perpetrators are left unaccountable for their actions long enough, the populace will become angry, a fact of life.
    The only way to stem the anger, is to continue to make people accountable for their actions.
    The Judge did this and not out of anger.

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  31. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    In physics, Newton’s third law of motion tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
    In life it is called the law of cause and effect.
    Even as a toddler, a child should learn that some behaviour is inappropriate and punishment will be the reaction to his/her action
    Punishment is meant to deter negative behaviour, that is, to dissuade and discourage inappropriate or potentially dangerous behaviour and defiance.
    A punishment must be given with love but must have impact.
    The most important thing to remember is that discipline must NEVER be administered in anger.

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  32. Paul Parker
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Eileen Van lersel, as CEO of CAALAS you should know better.
    Arguing for courts to constantly bail youths, anyone, for similar offenses, then return them to disruptive living environments is extreme tokenism.
    This contributes to erroneous perceptions nothing will happen to them when they commit offenses, thus the crime rate.

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  33. Steve Brown
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    It’s unfortunate that those involved in bureaucracy and the legal system often tend to identify with and fight for children’s rights as opposed to needs.
    Children need boundaries – that is how they determine if somebody or society in general care about them.
    If you don’t set firm boundaries they will misbehave and keep raising the level of that misbehaviour until they crash into a boundary.
    When they don’t find a boundary, which is what happens when everybody mollycoddles them, making excuses for their behaviour, the glaring phycological message to the child is that they are unloved!
    That soul-destroying realization inevitably leads to the kind of lashing out behaviour displayed by this child.
    While I share your concern at the child’s circumstances I am in despair shaking my head that this child wasn’t in some kind of care well before the events that led to his arrest.
    Eileen, are you seriously suggesting that this child should have been granted bail and returned to the horrific ordeal that appears to be his life?
    I believe the judge was perfectly correct, no decent human being with an eye to the child’s future would bail this kid!
    The Judge’s firm tone conveys strength and concern in the best way possible, I bet this young fella responds far more positively to that strength of concern than he has previously to all the mollycoddling and excuse making for his bad behaviour.
    Clearly the child is aware that his behaviour is bad and clearly the blatant nature of it is intended to get in the community’s face! Yes, of course it is a cry for help!
    But patting him on the head excusing the behaviour and returning him to circumstances he desperately needs to be removed from is not helping!
    It’s condemning! In the most utterly irresponsible way!
    Community anger at this child’s actions aside, wouldn’t all of us rather desperately hope that if a child of ours found themselves in such horrific and desperate circumstances?
    Mum murdered, dad on charges, wouldn’t we all hope, especially given the millions we pour into child welfare, that rather than being allowed to destroy his life running wild on the streets that this child be compelled into boarding house, care of some kind, care that ascertained his school attendance. Yes actually demonstrating care?
    The Judge was absolutely correct and is to be congratulated for demonstrating concern in the true sense and in doing so reflecting the wishes of the wider community.
    CAALAS is pretty often out campaigning against mandatory sentencing and I have some sympathy to their arguments, but it is this kind of misguided complaint that leads to campaigns within the community to restrain our legal community by making our laws mandatory.
    I suggest you keep that in mind when making what I judge to be a frivolous complaint.
    Be absolutely aware that our community wants and respects firm Judges and judgments.
    Believe it or not, so do the errant kids.

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  34. Michael Dean
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Eileen, I don’t think you are going to get the majority of the residents of Alice Springs on your side with your attitude.
    You seem to favor the perpetrators and pay lip service to the victims and lay the blame on a tragic event whilst turning a blind eye to prior crimes.
    People are staying awake at night to guard their property, not going out at night for fear of having their house burgaled whilst out.
    What about the others that go through tragic events and then DON’T commit crimes. Or does this give them an excuse to now go out and commit crimes, knowing your on their side?
    I think you’re more upset the judge made your guy look like a fool and you didn’t get your way.

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  35. Surprised!
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Ms Van Iersel, if the young man didn’t have any priors, your case may carry a little more weight.
    If “the youngster’s behaviour had spiralled downward since his mother’s death in January”, why should he be allowed leniency, when he already had a rap sheet and breached his bail conditions.
    Yes, it’s very sad to lose a loved one. Perhaps he was so distraught, that the deliberate actions of disabling CCTV Cameras was either well planned or an experienced action.
    The fact that they were clever enough to even do that, suggests coherency not a grief action.
    BUT what about the people (multiple) who were on the receiving end of this young man’s paths of destruction?
    Are they collateral damage and are they OK with that label? I think not.
    Who will take into account their circumstances, or who will even know what their circumstances are?
    Perhaps they had a loved one pass away.
    Who will pay the for the repairs and any trauma, emotional or otherwise?
    There is never enough reason to go around destroying other peoples property, NEVER.
    The Judge did an excellent job and the young man got what he deserved.
    If he has any character at all, he should be man enough to accept the consequences of HIS actions, and others should let it be.

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  36. Whitney
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Eileen, you are the problem with our society. You place so much value on how these young criminals are spoken too? Really, that is what you took out of that.
    I read how finally a magistrate is recognizing the damage this child has done in the community and how there really is no excuse for this child’s behavior.
    This child is obviously not sensitive about his mother’s death or he would be at home mourning not distroying peoples property.
    Whom do you think is paying for the repairs after this child has been out destroying?
    You obviously have no idea the damage this child will do throughout his life not only to property and possessions but also the emotional damage his blatant disregard for the community will have for his victims and the communites there horrid actions destroy.
    I don’t know how you sleep at night?
    Obviously better then this child’s and associates’ countless disgregarded victims!

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