Family’s anguish at magistrates bullying ruling

A SCHOOLBOY whose tormentors made a DVD depicting him being shot was bashed by bullies after a magistrate overturned a protection order.

The distraught family of the victim have now had to sell their house and move after bullies visited their address and broke windows following Richard Pithouse’s order.

“We feel let down by the school, by police but most of all by Mr Pithouse – he lifted the order and then my son got bashed,” the mother of the victim, who cannot be identified, said.

The boy and his family are shocked Magistrate Pithouse “yelled and banged” objects in court, describing their request for an intervention order as bordering on “abuse of process” and refusing it.

The mother of the boy – who was also mocked in the DVD for his accent and a physical defect – has complained to Chief Magistrate Ian Gray.

It is at least the seventh complaint about Mr Pithouse of which the Sunday Herald Sun is aware, but the Department of Justice has refused to disclose the real number.

After the family sent an audio recording of the hearing to Mr Gray, the Chief Magistrate’s letter back in October stated: “You have referred to his behaviour as unacceptable and included ‘raising his voice’ and ‘slamming down objects at times’.

“I accept that there were times in the hearing where Magistrate Pithouse was frustrated with counsel and did these things, and, while this was not directed at you or your son, I do appreciate that behaviour of this kind may be upsetting,” Mr Gray said.

“While I am sure Magistrate Pithouse did not intend to offend or distress you, I will remind him of the way behaviour of this kind can be perceived by others, particularly when people are already upset or distressed by being at court.”

Elsewhere Chief Magistrate Gray conceded: “I note your comments that you are continuing to have difficulties with the defendants in this proceeding.”

The bullying victim and his mother told the Sunday Herald Sun their faith in the justice system had been shaken by their experiences.

The tormenting of the boy stretched over years and spilled out of the schoolyard when his tormenters were seen smashing windows at the family home, they said.

Two ringleaders even made a cruel DVD to be distributed at school that was named after the boy, ridiculed him and featured a depiction of him being shot in the head complete with blood spatters.

The victim’s mother said the interim intervention order they obtained initially from court had kept the bullies and their cronies at bay.

Once that order was in place some of the bullies even contacted each other on social networking sites to warn others to stay away from the victim’s street, she said.

But after Mr Pithouse objected to their application to make it a permanent order and replaced it with a non-binding agreement of mutual respect, the victim was once more bullied and attacked by several boys.

That incident resulted in an assault charge against the main perpetrator, the victim’s mother said.

Fearing repercussions and that the justice system is unable to protect them, the family has sold the house and moved suburbs.

“I now have even more serious concerns for my son’s and family’s welfare, both at school and at home,” the mother said.

The Sunday Herald Sun is prevented legally from identifying any of the teens involved or their relatives.

Mr Pithouse’s unorthodox style on the bench has angered many crime victims who have come before him and his critics range from police to women’s groups.

Victims’ advocates, including Steve Medcraft from People Against Lenient Sentencing, have called for him to resign or be sacked.

It is the second time an applicant for an intervention order refused by Mr Pithouse has later been assaulted.

In October last year he refused the wife of a violent prisoner an intervention order after the prisoner, who had a history of violence against her, made threats.

Mr Pithouse accused the police applying for the order of a vendetta against the man. But the prisoner later assaulted the woman.

In response to 12 questions asked by the Sunday Herald Sun, Mr Gray issued a brief statement: “I have previously addressed the complaints relating to Magistrate Pithouse, and I am confident in his ability to properly perform his judicial duties.”

But action could now be instigated at a governmental level. New Attorney-General Robert Clark has previously been critical of inaction on Mr Pithouse and called for a full report on his conduct.

“Rob Hulls can’t put his head in the sand about this,” Mr Clark previously said.

“Rob Hulls needs to urgently seek a full report from the Chief Magistrate, so he can decide whether to appoint an investigating committee into removing Magistrate Pithouse from office.”

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General, Robert Clark, said he was very concerned about the large number of complaints made about Magistrate Pithouse, despite them having been investigated by the Chief Magistrate and reported to the former Attorney-General.

He said the Coalition would move quickly to introduce legislation in the new year to establish a judicial complaints commission that could independently investigate such complaints.

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