Judge Mary O’Dwyer
Judge O’Dwyer spoke last month at the National Council of Women’s conference. In that speech she spoke about family violence. To me this is an extreme conflict of interest as she sits in the Family Court. Especially so when she expressed the erroneous view to the National Council of Women that “all” statistics and research show predominantly women and children as victims.
Today I have made a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner.
I am sure it is not too late to made amendments so I have copied my complaint below. I will be interested in any feedback/suggestions.
1. I wish to make a complaint about Judge Mary O’Dwyer who is a judge in the Family Court.
2. My name is Wayne John Burrows.
3. My complaint is that Judge O’Dwyer demonstrated bias in speaking at the National Council of Women’s Conference held from 15-17 September 2016.
4. In her speech Judge O’Dwyer stated “the statistics and the research all show that predominantly the victims of this violence are women and children”.
5. This statement is far from accurate. There is much research that shows that men are as frequently or more frequently the victims of violence perpetrated by women. For example the Dunedin cohort study found as reported in an article by Magdol et al that 34% of men were victims of physical violence by their intimate partner compared with 27% of women. Similarly 22% of men and 37% of women perpetrated physical violence against their intimate partner.
6. Judge O’Dwyer’s statement using the universal quantifier “all” is so far distorted from reality as to show a clear gender bias in her thinking around family violence. Professor Murray Straus for example has written about 30 years of denying gender symmetry in partner violence.
7. As a Family Court Judge, Judge O’Dwyer will often be called upon with incomplete and conflicting information to adjudicate on who a (primary) perpetrator of violence is within a family relationship – the majority of which are heterosexual relations. If Judge O’Dwyer believes as stated that “the statistics and research all show that predominantly the victims of this violence are women and children” then it is inevitable that the woman will be presumed to be victims and by inference the man the perpetrator. Judge O’Dwyer will often be called upon to rule on balance of probabilities and if her view is that ‘women are predominantly victims’ then in her mind on balance of probabilities other things being equal the woman would be the victim and the man the perpetrator.
8. I submit given Judge O’Dwyer’s public statements about the extreme gender asymmetry in family violence that she is unfit to sit in the Family Court.
a. At paragraph (65) of the Guidelines for Judicial Conduct, judges are expected to exercise caution when expressing views on controversial subjects.
b. I submit that the gendered nature of family violence is such a controversial subject.
c. Judges should avoid using their judicial office to promote personal views.
d. I submit that Judge O’Dwyer’s stated view of all statistics and research show predominantly that women and children are victims is precisely that – a personal view. It is not factual – all research and statistics do not support Judge O’Dwyer’s personal view on this matter. As such Judge O’Dwyer should have avoided expressing this view publicly.
e. The purpose of not expressing personal views publicly is so as not to give the “appearance of capture by particular organisations or causes”. Judge O’Dwyer expressing these views to the sympathetic audience at the National Council of Women’s Conference strongly suggests that she is captured by that organisation and their views on family violence. Moreover the predominant feminist view of family violence as an expression of patriarchal dominance is a cause that is supported by Judge O’Dwyer’s expressed opinion that is contrary to the facts.
f. “Judges should avoid expressing opinions on matters which may arise in litigation and which may lead to concern about the impartiality of the judge”. Who the perpetrator of violence is is a common function of a Family Court Judge in for example issuing a Protection Order under the Family Violence Act. Judge O’Dwyer has not avoided expressing opinions on that matter by speaking publicly at the National Council of Women’s Conference.
9. Paragraph (65) of the Guidelines for Judicial Conduct also states that if a matter of public controversy calls for a response from the judiciary then that response should be made by the Chief Justice or head of jurisdiction or with their approval.
a. I have tried to determine through the Ministry of Justice whether such approval was given to Judge O’Dwyer but have been unable to do so.
b. Therefore I submit that investigation should be made into whether Judge O’Dwyer was granted approval by the Chief Justice or the Principle Family Court Judge to make a statement at the National Council of Women’s Conference.
10. Paragraph (72) of the Guidelines for Judicial Conduct requires that judges not be members of any organisation that discriminates on the basis of sex.
a. I submit that the National Council of Women is such an organisation. Their raison d’etre is to promote issues from a (discriminatory) women’s perspective.
b. I submit that Judge O’Dwyer should be investigated as to whether she is a member of any women’s organisations including the National Council of Women.
c. If Judge O’Dwyer is a member of any women’s organisations then I submit that those memberships should be made public. I believe this is in the public interest as Judge O’Dwyer has sat in the Family Court adjudicating primarily between men and women.