10 Jun 2013

Judge moved after relationship with staffer

9:46 pm on 10 June 2013

A District Court judge has been moved from Dunedin after a complaint about a relationship with a Ministry of Justice staff member.

The complaint against Judge Stephen O'Driscoll was made to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner earlier this year. He has sat in criminal and youth courts in Dunedin for the past 10 years.

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said that after consideration by the conduct commissioner and taking independent advice, she has decided that Judge O'Driscoll should no longer sit in Dunedin but will sit in a civil jurisdiction elsewhere.

She said the complaint related to a personal relationship Judge O'Driscoll had entered into with an employee of the Ministry of Justice in Dunedin.

Judge Doogue said Judge O'Driscoll has recognised his mistake and accepts the decision.

Bruce Harris, a constitutional lawyer at Auckland University, said the move does not represent a demotion.

"While there's no doubt that there's been a response from the head of bench, but we don't talk about the head of bench having the power to demote or promote judges. Promotion is not something that's known in the judicial circles."