Jurisdictions throughout Australia are hell-bent on banning symbols they don’t like, when it is way the symbol or sign is used rather than the image itself that is the problem. CLA made this point in a submission to a parliamentary process in the ACT, pointing out that there are thousands of signs, symbols, gestures, chants that could – and do, at times – give offence when misused.
As debate about The Voice becomes shriller on whether and how First Nations people can have a better say, the real question for all Australians is how we can gain the right to free speech and other freedoms currently only ‘suggested’ by court opinions. In early March, the results of a four-year study into how ‘Free & Equal' we should be will be handed down, along with – CLA hopes and expects – a recommendation for a federal Human Rights Act. That, as well as major changes to secrecy, privacy, discrimination and fixing the mess of the forensics, failing to disclose and the ‘justice’ system, in general, will highlight the agenda for the next two years.
CLA, in one of its traditional Australia Day letters, has called in 2023 on Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to secure agreement of all other AGs for a major review of forensic science in Australia, and for a national Forensic Science Regulator/Authority. The December 2022 findings of the Sofronoff inquiry in Queensland dramatically highlighted the extent of the problems, which have caused wrongful convictions in cases like Fara Jama in Victoria, Mallard in WA, Keogh in SA and Eastman in the ACT, among many others.
A defendant will be represented in court by an artificial intelligence in February 2023 for the first time ever. The DoNotPay smartphone app will tell a defendant what to say during a court case challenging a speeding ticket. The apps’ developers have not disclosed the exact date or location of the case in the USA, New Scientist reports. Should the robot lawyer lose the case, the company has promised to cover the cost of the fine for the defendant. DoNotPay is billed on its website as the “world’s first robot lawyer”. Joshua Browder, founder and CEO, said: “The goal of this company is to make the $200 billion legal profession free for consumers.” https://tinyurl.com/4n5peyaz
With The Voice to dominate 2023, CLA is concentrating on key national justice issues beyond the referendum. Since 2020, we have been lobbying hard behind the scenes on a Human Rights Act for Australia. To achieve the best possible version, we’ve helped produce major changes in the nation’s first HR Act, the one in the ACT, due to start in 2023 and operate fully in 2024. Also this year, CLA will focus on Failure To Disclose (FTD), the legal blight perpetrated mostly by prosecutors and police which makes our courts unfair and leads to miscarriages of justice, with taxpayers having to fund big compensation payouts.
Increasingly, in criminal trials throughout Australia, the failure to disclose (FTD) critical information to the defence appears to be skewing trials towards wrongful conviction outcomes. The problem is not new – the cases of Mallard, Keogh and Eastman over two decades demonstrate that fact – but what was an occasional blight seems to be becoming a plague of considerable proportions. Here’s the story, plus a special report on the Rules of Disclosure by legal academic Dr Bob Moles.
Increasingly, more women are in jail in Australia, and Aboriginal women are 21 times more likely to be jailed; most men and women in jail are suffering from mental health problems. The nation has an epidemic of poverty and homelessness, twin scourges which foster more draconian laws, longer jail sentences and so mushrooming prison building. Meanwhile police force numbers expand the more incompetent they are, especially re domestic crimes against women. Australia is in a downwards “justice” spiral: women are bearing the brunt. Radical re-thinking of flawed systems across federal, state and local governments needs to create better justice for the nation.
A former Tasmanian prosecutor, Tony Jacobs, with 30 years experience which includes 30 murder trials, has written an explosive letter – beginning with the famous phrase ‘J’Accuse, quoting Emile Zola in 1898 – to the state’s Law Society claiming that “Mrs (Sue) Neill-Fraser’s conviction for murder should have been overturned because of the mistakes & omissions of a number of Tasmanian Legal Practitioners”. Jacobs’ letter was tabled in the Legislative Council of the Tasmanian Parliament on Tuesday 15 November 2022 by Michael Gaffney MLC. Here’s the tabling speech from a Hansard proof copy, .and you can read the tabled the letter.
One jurisdiction has agreed to implement the principle of ‘No Rights Without Remedies’ starting in 2023, as the campaign for a national Human Rights Act switches into higher gear with a briefing to MPs in Parliament House. The federal Budget delivered in small ways for rights and liberties, but there were worrying failures nationally and internationally in terms of Australia’s prison systems, and in how we run trials whee rape is alleged, including serious new questions surrounding judicial directions, the rights of juries and ‘counselling’ in and out of court…raised here for the first time.
CLA’s submission to the National Anti-Corruption Commission parliamentary inquiry placed the NACC in context – along with a much-needed, federal Human Rights Act to follow – as delivering a better, fairer and more equal ethical infrastructure for Australia. When CLA appeared before the NACC inquiry committee, it was unfortunately more intent on parsing clauses from a legal perspective than discussing the best national philosophy for Australia. (Note: the committee asked for submissions to be kept as short as possible).