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Magistrate's anti Aboriginal outburst

Extract from The Age, on 4 May 2003


Anne-Marie Were, mother of Tashara Lee-Anne Were, was angered at magistrate Michael Frederick's comments about her daughter.

An Adelaide magistrate who told a young Aboriginal prostitute she was a crack-smoking junkie destined to die in the gutter and "no one gives a shit", did not know she was in a methadone program, her mother said yesterday.

Anne-Marie Were, mother of Tashara Lee-Anne Were, joined the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission yesterday in calling for magistrate Michael Frederick to be stood down.

Ms Were, 47, who appeared in the Port Adelaide Magistrates Court in January when Mr Frederick unleashed his diatribe against Tashara Were, said her daughter was possibly schizophrenic and had been taking heroin since she was 13.

But she said Tashara was trying to overcome her addiction.

"She is still on her methadone and she was on it when he called her a junkie," Ms Were said. "He didn't even stop to find out whether she had tried to better herself or whether she was receiving treatment."

Mr Frederick told Tashara: "You're a druggie and you'll die in the gutter. That's your choice. Stand up in the dock... and behave like an adult. I don't believe that social worker crap.

"You abuse your mother and cause her pain. You can choose to be who you are. You can go to work. Seven million of us do it whilst 14 million like you sit at home watching Days of our Lives, smoking your crack pipe and using needles and I'm sick of you sucking us dry.

"...We dicks pay for your life. It's your choice to be a junkie and die in the gutter. No one gives a shit, but you're going to kill that woman who is your mother, damn you to death."

Mr Frederick had sympathised with Ms Were, who has cerebral palsy and other health problems, in his bizarre sentencing outburst that was noted by a lawyer and made public when Supreme Court Justice John Perry criticised Mr Frederick in his appeal judgment.

Ms Were said yesterday Tashara had not got over it and considered suicide because she felt so hopeless.

She said Mr Frederick's remarks made Tashara, who she said was a troubled girl but very loving, feel more worthless because she could not understand why the magistrate hated her so much.

"She said, 'Well, if that's what he thinks of me, Mum, it might be better if I just go out and OD (overdose)'," Ms Were said.

Mr Frederick sentenced Tashara to a suspended six-week jail term after she breached bail conditions associated with an earlier conviction for soliciting in a public place for the purposes of prostitution.

But the sentence was overturned on appeal last month.

Mr Frederick, who has a history of outbursts but is also admired for his work in domestic violence, was called in yesterday to answer to Adelaide Chief Magistrate Alan Moss and Chief Justice John Doyle.

After the meeting Mr Frederick said he regretted making such intemperate remarks. Chief Justice Doyle said the public rebuke already received was sufficient punishment.

South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson said filthy language in court was inexcusable and the remarks corroded public confidence in the courts, but Mr Frederick would keep his job. "It is not, by itself, a hanging offence," he said.

Offenders Aid and Rehabilitation Services chief executive officer Leigh Garrett said: "To suggest that we need to be using personally denigrating language to try to change the personal behaviour... just beggars belief."

The racial context of the attack continued to cause concern. "You have no right to speak to any young person like that in any way or form," Ms Were said.

Tauto Sansbury, ATSIC's Patpa Warra Yunti Regional Council chairman, who has worked in the SA justice system for two decades, said Mr Frederick should be suspended.

By Penelope Debelle, Adelaide


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