'Mistake' behind judge's move

By Rebecca Fox

Stephen O'Driscoll. Photo / Supplied
Stephen O'Driscoll. Photo / Supplied

A complaint against Dunedin judge Stephen O'Driscoll, relating to a relationship with a Ministry of Justice employee, has led the Chief District Court Judge to decide he should no longer sit in the city's courts.

Judge O'Driscoll, who has sat in the criminal and youth courts since his appointment to the bench in 2003, would now sit in the civil jurisdiction elsewhere, Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said yesterday.

"This follows a complaint made against the judge to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner earlier this year."

The complaint related to a personal relationship the judge had entered into with a Dunedin employee of the Ministry of Justice.

The Judicial Conduct Commissioner considered the matter and referred the complaint back to Judge Doogue.

"Following independent advice, I ultimately decided that the judge should not sit in Dunedin."

He had consented to now sit in the civil jurisdiction elsewhere, she said.

"The judge recognises his mistake and accepts my decision and remains committed to his duties as a judge."

Judge O'Driscoll, who is married and holds a PhD in law from the University of Otago, has warrants to sit in the general and youth courts and on jury trials.

Before his appointment he was mostly a criminal lawyer for the firm O'Driscoll and Marks. He had worked in legal aid administration and was appointed a Crown Panel member in 1989. He was president of the Otago District Law Society from 1998 to 1999.

University of Otago Law Professor Mark Henaghan said Judge O'Driscoll was an excellent judge and known for being very decisive and hard working.

"It'll be a loss to the Dunedin community as he is such a strong and effective judge."

He was well regarded nationally as a senior judge and was a member of the judicial education committee.

Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens said those who appeared before Judge O'Driscoll were very sorry to see him go.

"I'm very sorry it has panned out this way and I'm sure my colleagues share that view."

Otago District Law Society president Gerard De Courcy declined to comment.

Attempts to contact Judge O'Driscoll yesterday were unsuccessful.

- Otago Daily Times

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