Fear not Andrew Bolt, all is well. Victorian magistrate Greg Connellan may not be the bleeding heart leftie you assumed him to be when you criticised his appointment to the bench on 14 September.

This week Connellan showed that he was no soft touch when he slammed as too lenient the five year jail term maximum for the offence of reckless conduct endangering serious injury. He got some decent headlines as a result – “judge slams inadequate penalty” type stuff. The victims lobby would have loved it.

Connellan is a former well known civil liberties lawyer who was involved in human rights lobby group Liberty Victoria. A fact noted by Bolt when, in one of his regular Herald Sun columns a couple of months ago, he highlighted Connellan’s appointment to the bench by Attorney-General Rob Hulls as being the latest exemplar of Mr Hulls preference for appointing judicial officers who share his “Leftist views”.

I am not sure that lawyers acting for a Sudanese migrant Lam Kuoth, who has been assessed by the authorities as being at high risk of infecting others with HIV, would agree with Mr Bolt’s assessment of Greg Connellan. Their client was pleading guilty to two counts of having unsafe s-x. He was ready to accept his punishment last Tuesday in Mr Connellan’s court.

But then it all went wrong for Lam Kuoth’s lawyers. Mr. Connellan not only gave the Victorian Parliament a serve because in his view “the five-year maximum penalty applicable to that offence is not really an adequate reflection of the seriousness of that offending”, but he refused to hear the matter.

Instead he said Lam Kouth could face the County Court – the next court up the hierarchy and where penalties tend to be a bit harsher – with this rather elliptical comment.

“In my view the charges alleged here are matters properly dealt with in the County Court with all the formality and deliberation that is necessarily part of that court’s jurisdiction,” Mr Connellan said.

But back to Andrew Bolt. What Mr Bolt needs to recognise that just because lawyers might be left of centre when they are in practice doesn’t necessarily mean they will carry the same attitudes onto the bench. The courts of this country are littered with judges and magistrates who used to be regarded as small l liberals, leftists and civil libertarians but who hand down tougher penalties than their former colleagues expect from them. Maybe Greg Connellan is one of them?

Peter Fray

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