What ripples beneath

The chilling realities of equal justice

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  • Published 20170801
  • ISBN: 9781925498417
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

JEREMY B PULLMAN was a tall, slim man with pale grey eyes and a number-three buzz cut along the sides of his skull. The rest of his dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail and tied together at the base of his neck, and then plaited down until it reached his waist. The way the strands thinned on top made it look shiny, a little greasy even, and I wondered how many times his solicitor had advised him to cut it off before getting in front of a jury. The other judge’s associates and I called it the ‘Ferguson effect’: if you’re on trial for paedophiliac offences your counsel will recommend you try as hard as you can to not resemble Australia’s most infamous paedophile, Dennis ­Ferguson. I was sitting at my desk at the opposite end of the courtroom watching him while the rest of the room bustled around me. He cocked his head to the right and I caught a glimpse of a smudgy neck tattoo. His skin had that permanent red-brown colouring indicating years of accumulated sunburns. A literal redneck.

I indulged these nasty thoughts about Pullman because he was a nasty man and because I am, of course, incredibly biased. Throughout my childhood my father would return home from work in his crisp police uniform with stories of justice being done. The morality he spoke about was addictive in how binary it was. Decisions were right or wrong, people were good or bad. I am also a woman, and Pullman had a rape conviction on his record. He was on trial in front of me that particular day for doing similarly violent, sexual things to his ten-year-old stepdaughter, so when he turned his head again and looked straight down the middle of the courtroom, right at me, his pale eyes unblinking, I felt myself sweat immediately. I flushed in panic and looked away. Another reminder that I could never be the impartial administrator the job demanded of me.

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Young lady, that’s inappropriate

EssayAFTER GRADUATING FROM law school, I spent a full and disturbing year working as a judge’s associate in the District Court of Queensland. The role required silence and discretion, and each week I sat, mute and powerless, watching things unfurl in front of me – both in and out of court – that made me want to get up and run. Forever the youngest in the room, often the only female, things that were normal to the seasoned lawyer unsettled me. I used to think all the time: Is anyone else seeing this?

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