A Bench of Bastards is a history of the judicial system, not from the boring rarefied atmosphere of the upper echelons of the judiciary but viewed from the lower ‘tar pits’ where all the work is done. Included is the origins and development of the magistracy in England touching on the history of punishment, imprisonment and the poor laws, the forerunner of today’s modern social security systems. This is followed by the history of magistracy in each Australian state and territory, including civil jurisdiction and the controversial question of Aboriginals and the law.
Review by Extract from the Foreword by the Chief Justice of South Australia, the Hon. Chris Kourakis:
“Mr Ward’s history is every bit as polemical as the title suggests. He has arrogated to himself the jurisdiction to sit in judgement of the office, both in England and Australia, over a period which spans eight centuries . . . His assertion of jurisdiction can be accepted for four reasons. First, for many years he himself was one of the bastards, and a good and well regarded one at that . . . The text is iconoclastic in a typically Australian style which is direct and colourful . . . and provides much interest and amusement.”