15 Nov 2012

Solicitor-General questioned about criticism of judges

11:26 pm on 15 November 2012

MPs have questioned new Solicitor-General Mike Heron about whether he should more regularly respond to public criticism of judges.

But Mr Heron told the Justice Select Committee on Thursday that he is reluctant to speak out, because he believes the media is interested only in heroes and villains.

In its annual report, Crown Law says one of its jobs is to protect the judiciary from improper and unfair public criticism.

National MP Jackie Blue said there had recently been some brutal attacks on judges and asked Mr Heron what support his office was providing.

He explained it was conventional for the judiciary not to respond to such criticism and only occasionally for the Attorney-General to do so, but said there may be a case for him personally to speak out more often.

He said it was worth considering whether he should speak publicly more often, not least as a way of educating the public.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson said Mr Heron should feel free to speak out.

"There is a growing disrespect of judges, and some of the criticism on the blogs is very personal and very unpleasant. There are ways of dealing with that. One of them is to speak out. Were he to chose the time to do that, look I wouldn't be too upset at all."