News State Victoria News Another complaint against ‘buyer’s remorse’ magistrate after online jab

Another complaint against ‘buyer’s remorse’ magistrate after online jab

Richard Pithouse
Richard Pithouse faced an investigation by the Judicial Commission. Photo: Hamilton Spectator
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A controversial magistrate under investigation over his suggestion a rape complainant had “buyer’s remorse” is again the subject of a grievance lodged with the judicial watchdog.

After months with no response to Penny, a legally blind woman who appeared before him with a sex assault complaint in 2018, Victorian magistrate Richard Pithouse appears to have broken his silence.

Penny told The New Daily she was disgusted to discover comments online that she said were obviously referring to her case and were critical of her barrister.

“He’s clearly not taking any responsibility for his own words and conduct,” she said.

Mr Pithouse has been at the centre of a probe by the Judicial Commission of Victoria after revelations he suggested in court Penny had contributed to the crime and sought to profit from her mistake.

More than 13,000 people have signed a petition calling for the magistrate to be removed, and his conduct received widespread condemnation, including from the state’s then chief victims’ advocate Greg Davies, who labelled it “victim-bashing”.

Mr Pithouse made the initial comments in 2018 at a hearing at the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal – called VOCAT – a place meant to be a “sympathetic and compassionate forum” for victims.

Penny is yet to receive a response months after her complaint, but last week a Twitter profile under the name Richard Pithouse appeared to level blame at her legal team.

“I was shocked and angry to see him publicly talk about my VOCAT matter and imply the barrister was to blame for anything,” Penny said.

“I have not received an apology (about the VOCAT matter).”

The latest complaint has been lodged in another letter to the Judicial Commission, seen by The New Daily.

The Twitter account under Mr Pithouse’s name appeared to suggest the barrister did not “bother” to prepare for Penny’s case.

The barrister – who cannot be named to protect Penny’s identity – had shared a newspaper report about concerns over the delay in the case of murdered comedian Eurydice Dixon.

The Richard Pithouse account fired back later on Wednesday night: “It’s the same situation when the legal representatives in a VOCAT matter don’t bother preparing a case by reading the police material which necessitates even further delay for alleged victim. People who live in glass houses …”

The Twitter profile was deleted following The New Daily’s inquiries to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

Mr Pithouse made headlines last year after revelations about his comments in VOCAT, including the suggestion Penny had “put herself in that position” and the phrase: “you can’t profit from your own malfeasance”.

Penny’s lawyer had argued she had been unable to consent to sex because she was intoxicated.

Penny, who is more vulnerable because of her disabilities, told police she had woken up in the home of a man she had met briefly at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

It is against the law to have sex with someone who is so drunk they can not consent, or who is passed out.

police assurance for victims
Police assure victims they are believed, even if the matter cannot proceed. Source: Victorian government

In Penny’s case, the prosecution decided there was not enough evidence, but she was given the option to go to the victims’ tribunal instead.

Penny said her experience at VOCAT had left her “broken”.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy referred the matter for investigation in January.

The New Daily attempted to contact Mr Pithouse for comment, through the media department of the Magistrates Court.

Questions were also put to the Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen on Thursday, but as of Monday morning The New Daily had not received a response.

A spokeswoman said on Monday morning: “The Magistrates’ Court is unable to comment on matters that are before the Judicial Commission.”