Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Disclosure bill could put judges at risk

Photo / File
Photo / File

Judges and their families could be at risk of retribution from criminals they have sentenced, the judiciary and a top lawyer have told MPs considering a bill that would require judges to publicly disclose details of their wealth.

Parliament's Justice and Electoral committee is currently considering Green MP Kennedy Graham's members bill that would establish a register of pecuniary interests for judges similar to the existing one for MPs.

The bill was drafted in the wake of Supreme Court judge Bill Wilson's resignation two years ago after a complaint about a perceived conflict of interest was made against him.

Mr Graham's bill would require judges to disclose their financial affairs but not dollar amounts in order to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest.

But according to a submission from Acting Chief Justice McGrath on behalf of all judges in New Zealand the register "would be an unwarranted intrusion into the personal affairs of judges, their partners and their families and would create opportunities for harassment by disgruntled litigants and others".

Yesterday appearing before the committee, barrister Justin Smith of the New Zealand Bar Association which opposes the bill also said making judges disclose personal financial information could place them and their families at risk.

"It's not unknown for there to have been threats to judges actually carried out in our distant history in New Zealand and in Australia and in other jurisdictions as well. The provision of this type of information certainly doesn't do anything to hinder that and in some ways can promote it, for example it tells you where judges live."

But Mr Graham yesterday dismissed those concerns saying the level of detail his bill would require would not expose judges or their families.

- NZ Herald

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