Sober as a ‘Judge’


PAUL BARBER likes to call himself a judge.

But judge the ‘judge’ or dare call his conduct into question and Barber runs a mile.

We know because we phoned the 78-year-old the other night to confront him for a third time – yes, a third time – about what right he had to call himself a judge.

Judge or no judge, we believe we’ve got a right to ask him that question.

And we say Barber has a legal and moral obligation to answer it.

But that’s the thing with questions. No one much likes them unless they have all the answers.

In this instance, Paul Barber doesn’t have the answers.

That, we’re sure of. We’ve given Barber ample opportunity to explain himself and each time he’s come up short.  

'Judge' Paul Barber

‘Judge’ Paul Barber

He’s clearly a man under pressure.

When we spoke on Friday night it was quite a different Paul Barber to the man we encountered three weeks earlier.

It’s often said Australians slur their words and use only two-thirds of their mouths to speak because early settlers spent most of their days drunk.

We’re not insinuating anything by that, except that the name Barber is pretty common across the ditch.

On Friday evening the conversation was brief. Brief is probably even an overstatement.

But notably this time round there was none of the belligerence or arrogant defiance that was such an embarrassing feature of our first exchange

No questions from Barber about who I was, where I lived or who’d put me up to calling him.

But no answers either.

Barber may have spent more than 30 years on the bench holding the great unwashed to account for their transgressions, but when it comes to his own it seems there’s no requirement for the accountability he expected of others.

All week Barber has been ducking our questions. We emailed him on Monday morning with a list of questions in the hope he might provide some plausible explanation about why during his four years in charge of the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal he had continually referred to himself as a judge.

We also wanted to confront him about why he’d lied to us about the fact.

Three weeks ago he swore black and blue he’d never told anyone he was a judge while in charge of the Tribunal

Well that wasn’t so.

A day later we were provided with an audio recording from a 2014 Tribunal hearing where he confidently introduced himself to the various parties involved in the proceeding as ‘Judge Barber’.

So was this simply a case of an ageing Barber clinging desperately to his glory days when he travelled the length and breadth of the country dispensing his unique brand of justice to all?

Or was there something more sinister in this?

Perhaps we’ll never know.

But more importantly we wanted to know whether Barber believed he had any legal standing as chairman as it didn’t appear he fulfilled the legislative requirements of the job – the fact the chair had to be either a judge (which Barber, by his own admission, says he’s not) or a barrister or solicitor with no less than seven years’ experience.

Barber doesn’t have a practising certificate, which means legally he’s not recognised as a barrister or solicitor.

So Paul, your thoughts on this? Paul –anything? Just a quick comment?

cookStephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.

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