Ballarat lawyer calls on Turnbull ministers to apologise

Ballarat lawyer Scott Belcher.
Ballarat lawyer Scott Belcher.

A Ballarat lawyer has called on senior Turnbull government ministers to apologise for their “extraordinary attack” on Victoria’s highest court.

Scott Belcher said the comments made by the ministers – all of them qualified lawyers – were “extremely disappointing” and could amount to scandalous contempt of court.

Health Minister Greg Hunt, Human Service Minister Alan Tudge and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar last week retracted, but refused to apologise for, their comments.

The ministers were ordered to appear before the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed his ministers, as has Senator Derryn Hinch, who said he would have told the judges to ‘go jump’.

The Australian has since apologised for publishing the article. 

Mr Belcher said the ministers’ comments were ill-considered political interference which undermined community confidence in the state’s justice system. 

“As a lawyer I’m extremely disappointed in these remarks about the judges from former lawyers, clearly not criminal lawyers in their past careers otherwise they’d know better or should know better,” he said.

“The federal ministers should have not only retracted their public comments, but apologised for them as well.” 

The federal ministers should have not only retracted their public comments, but apologised for them as well.

Ballarat lawyer Scott Belcher

The three Victorian ministers could face being charged with contempt of court for their comments, which were made before the Court of Appeal had announced its ruling on the appeals of convicted terrorist Sevdet Ramadan Besim and another teenager jailed for terrorism offences known as MHK.

Mr Hunt was quoted in The Australian accusing the Victorian legal system of becoming a forum for “ideological experiments” while Mr Sukkar said the justice system needed to focus more on victims and less on terrorists’ rights. 

Mr Belcher said separation of the courts and government was enshrined in the constitution “for very good reason”. 

- with Fairfax Media