Two separate inquiries will investigate claims a sitting magistrate repeatedly sexually harassed a judge’s associate, who is now a federal prosecutor.
Two separate inquiries will investigate claims a sitting magistrate repeatedly sexually harassed a judge’s associate, who is now a federal prosecutor.

Magistrate ‘sexually harassed judge’s associate’

Allegations that a sitting SA magistrate repeatedly sexually harassed a District Court judge's associate will be the subject of two separate inquiries.

Both Supreme Court Chief Justice Chris Kourakis and Judicial Conduct Commissioner Ann Vanstone will investigate claims made by Commonwealth prosecutor Alice Bitmead.

As reported by InDaily, Ms Bitmead has alleged that, while working for a judge in 2018, she was subjected to inappropriate and sexual behaviour by the magistrate.

She further alleged that she raised complaints in the months following the behaviour but has yet to receive a response or an apology.

In a statement to The Advertiser, Ms Vanstone said Ms Bitmead's complaint was referred to her by Chief Justice Kourakis.

"I appreciate the person coming forward and making a complaint to the Chief Justice," she said.

She said that, as per the Judicial Conduct Commissioner Act 2015, her next step was to conduct a preliminary investigation.

"I have already commenced that … I expect to finish it quite quickly, as long as I can speak to the people I need to," she said.

"It should be noted that my functions under the Act do not include making any decision as to whether the allegations are true.

"Whether the magistrate continues to sit during my investigation is a matter for the Chief Magistrate."

 

Judicial Conduct Commissioner Ann Vanstone will investigate the claims but not make a decision on whether or not they are true. Picture: Tony Lewis
Judicial Conduct Commissioner Ann Vanstone will investigate the claims but not make a decision on whether or not they are true. Picture: Tony Lewis

 

The Advertiser has sought comment from Chief Justice Kourakis and the state's chief magistrate, Judge Mary-Louise Hribal.

Ms Bitmead's complaint follows last month's report, by the Equal Opportunity Commissioner, into sexual harassment within the state's judiciary and legal profession.

It found bullying, harassment and improper practices went "all the way to the top" of the industry with victims fearful of "professional retribution" if they complained.

The report including numerous allegations of harassment including claims a judge told a woman he "would like to throw you to the floor and f--- you now".

At the time of the report, a courts spokeswoman said the document did not detail allegations against any sitting judicial officer.

Days later, however, the Commissioner issued a correction after an alleged victim confirmed her complaint referred to a serving judge or magistrate.

Originally published as Magistrate 'sexually harassed judge's associate'



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