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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Aboriginal Magistrate Pat O'Shane

Patricia June O’Shane is a magistrate of the Local Court of New South Wales and lives in Sydney. She is also an Aboriginal and former head of the NSW Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. She will be 72 this year, the age when NSW Magistrates must retire.

Ms O’Shane has had numerous complaints about her judgements over the years, but somehow she’s survived them all and the question should be asked – has she received sympathetic consideration from the legal profession because she’s Aboriginal?

Unfortunately for Ms O’Shane, her recent ruling has upset a lot of people because it involves an assault on a member of the people we hold dear - our ambulance service. She threw out assault charges laid against a black African refugee, accused of punching a NSW Ambulance Officer after she learned that the paramedic had called him a “filthy pig”.

In questioning Christopher Martin, Ms O’Shane asked him if it would be correct to infer “that you don’t like blacks.” It seems the paramedic called him a “filthy pig” when he spat on the ambulance floor but he wasn’t given the opportunity to tell his side of the story.

Senior judges have been unhappy with Pat O’Shane for a long time, upholding 88 per cent of Supreme Court appeals against her judgements and ordering half to be reheard by other magistrates.

"If Pat O'Shane wants to retain her dignity and her reputation as a leading public figure, she may well think it is time to resign." Michael Eburn and Ruth Townsend from the Australian National University College of Law wrote in a Sydney newspaper today.

Premier Barry O'Farrell asked a question that needs an answer - why has the legal profession sanctioned unfair and unjust rulings that have been going on for decades?