Deakin Criminologist, Dr Danielle Tyson, and Professor Rosemary Hunter, Queen Mary University of London, have just published in the University of New South Wales Law Journal Themed Issue: The Individual Judge with a paper titled: Justice Betty King: A Study of Feminist Judging in Action.
Abstract: Justice Betty King sat on the Supreme Court of Victoria for 10 years from 2005–15. Prior to that she was a judge of the Victorian County Court from 2000–05 after a career at the Victorian Bar from 1975–2000. During her career she was a pioneer for women in many respects, being only the 24th woman called to the Victorian Bar, the first woman prosecutor in Victoria, the first woman Commonwealth prosecutor, and one of the first Victorian women appointed a QC. As a Supreme Court judge, Justice King was known for ‘speaking her mind’, her ‘no nonsense approach and colourful attire’. She gained a high profile in her role in the series of trials associated with the Melbourne gangland killings dramatised in the television series, Underbelly. She was the judge who banned the broadcast of Underbelly in Victoria during the murder trial of one of its protagonists, Carl Williams, and she also banned a Today Tonight episode featuring a showdown between Carl Williams’ mother and the mother of Lewis Moran during the trial of Evangelos Goussis for Moran’s murder. In a May 2010 interview she spoke out against the media’s treatment of prominent defendants and their family members as celebrities, and disavowed any interest in being treated as a celebrity herself. Our focus in this article is on a lesser-known aspect of Justice King’s judicial life, that is, her sentencing decisions in domestic homicide and domestic violence cases. Although Justice King never, to our knowledge, publicly identified as a feminist, we argue in this article that her sentencing decisions in domestic homicide and domestic violence cases constitute instances of feminist judging. In this paper, we present an analysis around the major themes we found emerging from Justice King’s judgments in these cases. These are themes of empathy for victims, taking domestic violence seriously, insisting on the need for men to control their anger and rage, challenging defendants’ self-serving claims, and support for women’s rights to equality, autonomy and safety. We conclude that Justice King’s sentencing judgments in these cases bear many of the hallmarks of feminist judging.
The themed issue 40(2) on ‘The Individual Judge’ was launched by the University of New South Wales Law Journal at the Sydney offices of Clayton Utz on 29 May 2017, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. The Issue features a thematic component on ‘The Individual Judge’, which seeks to explore the judiciary through the lens of individuality in any of its forms and to meaningfully contribute to the existing body of Australian judicial literature by considering judges as individuals rather than as part of the relatively anonymous third branch of government.