Judge defends booting breastfeeding mum out of court
An under-fire Victorian judge has sought to explain to a jury why he asked a breastfeeding mother to leave a Country Court trial as calls intensify for an apology.
The woman was feeding her child while observing a case on Thursday when the judge told her she was not permitted to breastfeed in court because it was a distraction.
The County Court declined to comment but the judge on Friday addressed the jury about the incident, saying his comments should be "self-explanatory".
"What I (told the mother) was this - 'Madam, you will not be permitted to breastfeed a baby in court. I'm sorry. I will have to ask you to leave. It will be a distraction for the jury at the very least'," the judge said on Friday.
"I am telling you this because it is something that has attracted some media publicity and I think you need to know exactly what it was that I said and why I said it.
"That said, it is not a matter that you should be giving any real consideration to going forward as it is irrelevant to your task."
Advocates have labelled the judge's actions as outdated and called on him to apologise to the mother.
"This poor woman was made to feel humiliated," midwife and Birth Beat founder Edwina Sharrock told Nine on Friday.
"We have worked for years and years to normalise and to say that breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby and we should be supporting women."
Victorian Early Childhood Minister Ingrid Stitt said she understood the state's attorney-general would talk to the courts about the issue.
"The important message for Victorian women is that we support you and your right to be able to care for your children," Ms Stitt said on Friday.
"If that means that you have to breastfeed in a public building, then that is something that should be not only tolerated, but frankly, celebrated."
Shadow Attorney-General Michael O'Brien said the courts should have a more modern approach.
"You'd be hard pressed to find anybody who's going to be massively distracted by a woman looking after a baby in the public gallery," he said on Friday.
"Hopefully this will be a learning experience."
People are not allowed to eat, drink or wear clothing such as sunglasses and hats in court.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are protected by anti-discrimination laws in areas of public life including work, schools, universities, shops or rental properties.
However, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission's website does not state whether the legislation applies to courtrooms.
There should not be restrictions or limitations on when or where breastfeeding occurs, Maurice Blackburn special counsel Emily Creak said.
"It is not immediately clear whether existing anti-discrimination protections would extend to these circumstances - in court where a judicial officer is performing their functions," she told AAP.
"Regardless, for a person to be asked to leave any place - including a court - because they are breastfeeding their baby is antiquated and out of step with community expectations."
Judges are immune from civil liability on the basis of promoting independence.