BEFORE moving to Fiji, Jocelynne Scutt was one of Australia’s most prominent barristers.
She is a former Anti-Discrimination Commissioner in Tasmania, an internationally known feminist, and holder of multiple post-graduate degrees in the law.
In Fiji, she has been appointed to the High Court, the third most senior court in the country’s judicial hierarchy.
She joined the Fiji judiciary soon after the coup in December 2006. Her activities in that country have now been referred to adversely in a major report on the rule of law in Fiji prepared by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.
She was involved in proceedings that were “a chilling use of judicial powers” against free expression, the report says.
Justice Scutt has not replied to invitations from The Australian to respond.
The IBAHRI report covers a wide range of matters in its 118 pages and the sections that refer specifically to Justice Scutt are confined to little more than two pages.
She is also affected by the report’s concerns about the legitimacy of judicial appointments made since the military-backed Government came to power.
The report says that soon after joining the Fiji judiciary, Justice Scutt took part in “beratement proceedings” aimed at intimidating the director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Virisila Baudromo. It is this case that has concerned the IBAHRI.
The report says Ms Baudromo had been asked to appear in court on the same day that she had been quoted in the Fiji Sun criticising the legality of the appointment of two judges whom she identified as female.
The newspaper had quoted Ms Baudromo as saying that Fiji was on shaky ground when the interim government was hand-picking judges for the court that might ultimately decide the legality of the military takeover.
The article had appeared soon after Justice Scutt had been appointed to the bench.
On the same day, the Fiji Sun and Ms Baudromo received letters asking them to attend court.
The other judges who presided that day were Nazhat Shameem and Daniel Goudar.
“IBAHRI considers this proceeding to be of concern: no charges had been laid and no civil proceedings was on foot,” it says.
“It appears that the judges involved used their positions in order to intimidate a critic from the bench by conducting a court hearing without any initiating process and which was not in the course of any other matter,” the report says.
When Ms Baudromo and a representative of the Fiji Sun appeared in court, the transcript shows that there was a discussion about the nature of the proceedings.
They were described by Justice Shameem as “a quiet explanation of the judiciary’s concerns about the article, rather than an action for contempt”.
The IBAHRI report also says Justice Scutt made public statements about a report on the credibility of pre-coup elections that was the subject of political debate and litigation.
This prompted the director of Fiji’s Pacific Centre for Public Integrity, Angie Heffernan, to call for Justice Scutt’s resignation on the grounds that the judge’s statements had compromised her position on the bench, the report says. It says Ms Heffernan’s lawyer, Perth barrister John Cameron, was “effectively deported” from Fiji on the basis that he had breached his work permit.
The report says the IBA delegation that visited Fiji last year understands that the deportation is widely considered to have been politically motivated.
It was seen as an attempt to prevent Dr Cameron from continuing to act in cases “that had potentially unfavourable consequences for the military Government”.
The report’s conclusions state that the IBAHRI is “concerned by the ‘beratement proceedings’ that took place in response to published criticisms of the judiciary”.
“The IBAHRI considers that there is a perception that the judiciary in Fiji is not independent,” the report says.
Some kind of feminist hey? Bullying her sisters who fight to bring about legal rights for citizens of this Nation to be recognised.
If this mamaboci had done this in the country she is from she would’ve been disbarred, as it is she most probably will be for accepting the illegal appointment to the judiciary in Fiji in these troubled times.