Tim Carmody hopes his background can mend the "disconnect"
FROM a childhood shuffling between houses in the Darling Downs to a housing commission home in Inala, the man about to take on Queensland's highest judiciary position hopes his background can help reduce the disconnect people feel from the court system.
Chief Magistrate Tim Carmody, who began his working life as a meat packer, copped a barrage of criticism as rumours of his imminent appointment to Chief Justice swept through the legal community.
Much of the attack related to the judge's involvement in the controversial bikie laws - particularly bail.
But, after months of speculation and a public spat with the judiciary, Premier Campbell Newman appointed Judge Carmody on Thursday.
Judge Carmody, a Queen's Counsel, will take over from Supreme Court chief justice Paul de Jersey who becomes Governor next month after more than 16 years in the job.
Mr Newman said there were many fine candidates but he chose Judge Carmody because he was a leader and a "knockabout bloke" that Queenslanders could relate to.
"Tim Carmody is someone who has the essential spirit of Queensland about him," he said.
"He got to this day the hard way through the sweat of his brow, through physical labour, through a lot of hard work.
"Tim Carmody understands day to day people, he's a great partitioner of the law and a great leader.
"Here is a person who has gone a long difficult and challenging route to get to this position and I think that will be an inspiration to people.
"I think it will show kids from the little towns in the Darling Downs, like Millmerran where Tim came from, ... that with hard work and study people can do anything in this world.
"Tim Carmody is a role model to demonstrate that."
Judge Carmody said his life story might be a little different but there was a lot of diversity in the courts and there were few families with inter-generational judges.
"I'm not that unusual," he said.
"Somehow there's become a disconnect and our community feels that the court's remote and they're populated with people from privileged backgrounds but that's not actually true.
"Somehow we have to find a way of the truth speaking for itself rather than being misdescribed.
"I'm not sure how that happened, no doubt it was incremental, but there's a lot of judges there that came from, if not the same, similar backgrounds."
Judge Carmody said it was not just his background that he would take into his new role, noting he had learned a lot about Queensland "systems" when he headed up the Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection.
"I learned how systems work and how easy it is for systems to go off track," he said.
"If it's not diagnosed and corrected early then it just gets compounded."
The problem is biggest in Queensland's regional areas, Judge Carmody said after spending a lot of time outside Brisbane during the commission.
"It is more difficult to link needs with services in regional areas because the services that are needed are not available and the services that are available often aren't needed," he said.
"As a result, for example, if your need wasn't protection, you had some other need, the only service available was protection which you neither wanted nor needed.
"The court system is there to provide services and the service is a hearing and a decision, as quickly, fairly and as cheaply as possible."
But Judge Carmody said it was also about communities and he planned to spend time rotating through the regional Supreme Courts once he got his head around the new role.
He said one of the advantages of being appointed chief magistrate nine months ago was that "our presence is as regional as it is metropolitan".
Judge Carmody said it was important to keep the supreme court system circuits through regional Queensland.
"I'm really concerned about greater access to the courts, a feeling of the courts being remote from the community it serves and I'm thinking that if the community and the towns and the cities feel the courts are a little detached then people further out must feel that even more so," he said.
"I think we want create a court that's inclusive and accessible and to do that you've got to be out there and be seen and become at least familiar in the communities.
"(Communities are) all different, they have different dynamics, different memberships, different needs and you've got to actually look at the audience.
"Like children, you've got to look at what that child needs, not children in general because they're not going to be the same."
Independent Nicklin MP Peter Wellington took to Facebook after the announcement to argue the LNP now had a "royal flush with control of every one of the state's corruption/crime fighting bodies".
He said a fair hearing was now impossible in Queensland with the LNP's iron clad arm controlling the government, courts, police, the Crime and Misconduct Commission and the oversight Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee.
Mr Wellington said Judge Carmody might believe he can be independent but the appointment undermined public confidence in the court system.
"His appointment to this most powerful position in Queensland has the capacity to do more damage to the independence of our judiciary," he said.
"I believe there were ample other suitable candidates that the government could have chosen which would have retained the perception of a separation of powers."
Bar Association of Queensland president Peter Davis resigned from his role on Friday following the appointment.
Mr Davis, in a letter to his colleagues, said his resignation related to Mr Carmody's appointment but was not "a personal criticism".
He said he believed the government had leaked confidential details of conversations he had with them about protecting the integrity of the court.
But he added that as a "sitting judge" Mr Carmody deserved the "community's respect".
Fairfax MP Clive Palmer - who has criticised the LNP repeatedly over its changes to the Crime and Misconduct Commission - backed Judge Carmody, saying only the appointment should be questioned.
"Nobody should cast a dispersion about Tim Carmody's honesty as an individual," he said.
"He is a judge, he's been a barrister of the Supreme Court, he's a person of great integrity.
"You don't want confuse attacking Newman on the manner and the way he was appointed with the person himself."
Judge Carmody said he had weighed up the criticism that came his way, because it came from the legal fraternity, but decided it was unfounded.
"I can do this job. I shouldn't not do this job just because somebody else says I shouldn't," he said.
"It's as bad to be biased against the government as it is for a government. No judge should be biased either way.
"If my views happen to coincide with the government's views that's pure coincidence.
"I have the training and the long experience to be able to put aside my personal views to do the job that's required in the public interest."
TIM CARMODY BIO
- Born in the Millmerran on May 18, 1956. Second of four children.
- Father was a seasonal meat worker, publican, bookmaker and boarding house contractor at Katherine meatworks.
- Mother was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour, at age 39, which left her paralysed.
- Family moved from the Darling Downs to live in a housing commission house in Inala in 1963.
- Left school and university twice to work on the Katherine meatworks floor for his father and to help after a cancer diagnosis.
- Joined police force in 1975. Stationed in inner Brisbane before being assigned to legal and training.
- Resumed law studies in 1976 and then left the police force to work as a clerk in the public defender's office until 1982 when he was admitted as a barrister and started private practice.
- 1987-1989: Counsel assisting the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
- 1989-1991: Special prosecutor conducting official corruption prosecutions and other offences arising from the inquiry.
- 1996-1997: Junior counsel in the Connolly-Ryan Inquiry.
- 1999: Took silk.
- 1998-2002: Queensland Crime Commissioner
- 2003-2008: Family Court Judge.
- 2003: Centenary Medal for distinguished service to law and community.
- 2012: Headed the Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection
- 2013: Appointed District Court Judge and Chief Magistrate.