An outspoken judge has jailed a man for 28 days for swearing at him from the public gallery, saying he's had enough of criminals and their supporters being rude and arrogant.
Judge Tony Adeane, a district court judge working in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne, said Gisborne had a "particular problem" with bad behaviour in court, after he jailed the man for abusing him.
Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson said yesterday that members of the public yelling out to a judge was relatively new.
However, Law Society president Jonathan Temm said such behaviour had become "par for the course" in many courts, although it remained "very uncommon" for someone to be jailed for abusing a judge.
Judge Adeane said James Kennedy Grant's abuse came at the end of a week of "bad manners" in Gisborne District Court last week. "At least one defendant having been denied bail chose to make a thoroughly obscene outburst ... one individual walked across the back of the seats [in the public gallery], a phone rang in the pocket of one individual twice."
Grant, 26, of Gisborne, was in the public gallery to support a friend appearing in court. He was unhappy at the outcome of his friend's appearance and, just as he was leaving, yelled out to Judge Adeane: "Is that all, c...?"
He was called to appear before the same judge in Napier on Monday and was sent to jail for contempt of court.
"Your outburst was simply arrogant, angry, rude, disrespectful defiance of the court, and that will not be tolerated," Judge Adeane told him. "It needs to be known ... particularly in Gisborne, where there is a specific problem."
He said, although he was sometimes prepared to overlook emotional responses from stressed people in the dock, he would not accept it from the public.
Courts Minister Georgina Te Heuheu's office said worsening behaviour in courts had not been brought to her attention, but she had requested information on the matter from the Justice Ministry.
Mr Temm said behaviour in Gisborne was no different from many other courts in lower socio-economic communities.
"It's par for the course. I could take you to courts in Tokoroa, Rotorua, South Auckland, and you would see exactly the same thing.
"People do tend to straighten up [their behaviour] in court, but you get a small minority who are inarticulate, poorly educated, and they have no skills available [to vent] their frustration.
"It's uncommon for abuse to reach the level where a judge feels he has to take this kind of action."
Gowns would be introduced back into the indictable section of district courts from March, and the increased formality might improve behaviour.
"The general behaviour across society has deteriorated, and the behaviour in court just reflects that."
Judge Johnson did not believe abuse of courts had got markedly worse, but that it followed the path of "belligerence that has worsened over the last several decades".
That reflected society, he said. "People ... are not so likely to accept authority. [But] it used to be unusual for the gallery to try and interfere with proceedings."
- The Dominion Post