Minister for Multicultural Affairs goes Bonkers

Atkinson blasts senior magistrate as ‘daft’ and ‘delusional’

Jamie Walker: The Advertiser | June 13, 2008,22606,23856671-5006301,00.html

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Michael Atkinson has called a senior magistrate “daft” and “delusional” for calling for jail overcrowding to be factored into sentencing.

The ferocity of the criticism from Mr Atkinson, of deputy chief magistrate Andrew Cannon yesterday stunned the Adelaide legal community.

Mr Atkinson’s office was on the back foot last night to justify his language, and some of the grounds he had used to blast Dr Cannon, who is an adjunct professor of law and the state’s senior mining warden.

Mr Atkinson launched his broadside after Dr Cannon’s set of “generic” sentencing principles were posted on an internal Courts Administration Authority website accessed by other magistrates and judges.

Mr Atkinson said Dr Cannon was “delusional”, misunderstood his place in the legal hierarchy and had demonstrated a “daft misunderstanding of the law”.

“I would be astonished if any … competent magistrate would pay any attention whatsoever to this so-called statement of principles,” Mr Atkinson said.

Dr Cannon took specific issue with recent comments by South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley that the state Government could not “care less” about prison overcrowding, and was willing to “rack ‘em, pack ‘em and stack ‘em” in the cells.

Among the legal authorities Dr Cannon cited was the obligation of Australian governments to respect the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights, which South Australia had “ignored”.

“I conclude from those authorities and the court’s obligation to have regard to breaches of the ICCPR in our prisons, when imprisoning members of the community … that this court should have regard to overcrowding in the prisons as a relevant factor,” he wrote.

The opinion was posted on the Juris system on May 23, a fortnight after Dr Cannon had raised similar concerns while presiding in the state’s Drug Court.

Mr Atkinson said yesterday Dr Cannon had also referred to the need for prisoners to have a “view of the landscape” from their cell and that they should not be sent to jail outside the Adelaide metropolitan area.

In fact, Dr Cannon was in part citing prison-facilities guidelines adopted in Australia.

Asked last night to point out where Dr Cannon had used the terminology Mr Atkinson had attributed to him, the minister’s spokeswoman said it was implicit to the argument Dr Cannon had a ...

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