Fingleton refuses job offer on bench

QUEENSLAND'S former chief magistrate who was wrongly jailed for six months has turned down an offer from Premier Peter Beattie to return to the magistracy -- but not to the top job.
Mr Beattie acknowledged yesterday that Di Fingleton had been ``to hell and back'', but he said he was opposed to paying her compensation despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars she spent fighting the case.
``Let me be really clear that Di Fingleton cannot have her old job back, and I'm not fussed about compensation,'' Mr Beattie said.
Ms Fingleton, 58, was jailed for six months in June 2003 when a jury found her guilty of threatening a witness.
However, last week the High Court ruled in a unanimous judgment that she had immunity from prosecution when carrying out lawful judicial administrative tasks -- and that she should never have been charged or jailed.
``I do think she is entitled to justice,'' Mr Beattie said.
``I'm signalling today, very deliberately, that I'm not opposed to her returning as a magistrate because she was unanimously cleared by the High Court and that's a pretty powerful decision.
``Under those circumstances, it clears the way for her to return to the bench, should that be possible.''
Asked yesterday what she thought of Mr Beattie's statement, Ms Fingleton said: ``I want my job as chief magistrate back.
``We will be talking about this and the issue of compensation with the Government.''
The embarrassing rebuke by the High Court in Ms Fingleton's case again turned the spotlight on the Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, with calls from the state Opposition for her to be sacked following similar bungles involving One Nation founder Pauline Hanson and national swim coach Scott Volkers.
Mr Beattie revealed yesterday that his Government had reappointed Ms Clare last month to a further three-year term because it would have been ``untenable'' to do otherwise as she is investigating possible charges against the parliamentary Speaker, Ray Hollis.
Ms Fingleton had to resign her $200,000-a-year position on July 1, 2003, when the Queensland Court of Appeal rejected her appeal against conviction and sentence.
Since the High Court's decision last Thursday, there have been calls from lawyers and politicians for Ms Fingleton to be compensated.
In a related development, Queensland's Chief Justice, Paul de Jersey, was forced to deny that he had told The Courier-Mail he knew of Ms Fingleton's immunity from prosecution, but said nothing.
``I said no such thing,'' Justice de Jersey said.
``As the journalist acknowledged to me on Friday, I said only in response to his question that I had been aware of Section 21(a) of the Magistrates Act, the provision which exonerated Ms Fingleton.
``I had never conceived that provision could apply to her case.
``I was neither the trial judge nor a member of the Court of Appeal which heard the appeal. Even if I considered the provision arguably applicable, it would have been improper for me to intervene.''