Suppressed! Your right to know    

A noted person was apparently convicted of historic sex crimes in Victoria in December 2018 – but Australians can only find out about the conviction by reading overseas media outlets. In Australia, news of all details of the case is ’suppressed’ by the judge. That is, no-one anywhere in Australia is permitted to report what international outlets say was a unanimous finding by a jury that a person was guilty. The person is to be sentenced in February, but is currently on bail despite being convicted of offences against children, which usually involves residential restrictions. Court suppression orders in Australia, like defamation laws, need a thorough overhaul.

Electing to study how good/bad law is made

One problem with law-and-order politicians is that their efforts inevitably lead to more prisons, more prisoners and more taxes paid by the very people who voted for them. It’s a bit like a two-card trick: vote for me and I’ll take more money from you. But laws are derived from all sorts of community inputs – as well as glib pollticians – and a new academic team across universities is studying how we get both good laws and bad laws.

Drug prohibition causes the harm

When people die or serve years in jail because they took drugs, there’s one group for whom the suffering never ends, the parents. Here reporter Paul Gregoire explores what one often-overlooked group, the Parents and Friends of Drug Law Reform, believe is the way forward to reducing deaths and ameliorate the consequences and suffering of the health problem that is the taking of drugs in our society. An overdose of alcohol is a disease, cancer from an overdose of sun is a disease, consuming tobacco is treated as a health problem, why is taking drugs not treated similarly?

Dutton & Home Affairs conduct sham, pre-ordained ‘consultation’

Minister Peter Dutton is conducting a sham ‘consultation’ after which he will determine “arrangements that govern the protection and management of identity information”. In other words, a man on record 16 years ago as demanding wholesale sharing of personal information across police, security and all government bodies is about to decide whether we get a national ‘Australia Card’ ID system or similar open-slather access to your private information. CLA’s submission says he’s the wrong man, it’s the wrong department, and any inquiry into personal ID rules should be run with equal numbers of rights, liberties and IT gurus as part of a balanced review panel.

Don’t get excited at airports…you may get carried away

Beware! You may have to change your natural behaviour at airports – don’t muck around, don’t joke, don’t skylark with friends…or the lurking police officer might decide to demand your ID, search you and your e-devices, make you miss your flight and take you away for questioning. The enhanced new search powers are so broad that AFP officers could apply them in just about any situation, certainly not just when mass panic is being provoked or someone is unfurling a provocative flag.  Paul Gregoire reports

We need an ideological revolution in criminal justice

For nearly 30 years, since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Australia’s rate of jailing Indigenous people has been going totally in the wrong direction, says ACT Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold. The option of ever-increasing sentences hasn’t worked so, he says, it’s time we totally switched our thinking towards solutions that work in other countries rather than continuing failed policies that not only have not worked, but have been demonstrated for decades to not work to solve an ongoing problem.

Governments to seize even more assets

By Paul Gregoire: A Senate committee has just given the Turnbull government the green light to nationalise a scheme that allows government to seize citizens’ assets unless their legitimate origins can be explained, even if the owner of the wealth hasn’t been charged with – let alone convicted of – an offence.

Evils of mandatory sentencing on display

Zak Grieve withdrew from a murder plot before the event, refusing to go through with it. But that didn’t save him from two legal evils, mandatory sentencing and the ‘joint criminal enterprise’ doctrine. Under the latter, he was guilty because he knew of the plot in advance, and didn’t stop it. Under mandatory sentencing, Zak – the 19-year-old who wasn’t there, who had no previous criminal record – received a longer sentence in prison than the actual killer! Now a group of activists, including CLA’s Felicity Gerry QC, have lodged a petition for mercy in the Northern Territory to try to overcome legal inflexibility in pursuit of justice and a fairer go.

The law defeats justice – again – in Australia’s deep south

The Supreme Court of Tasmania has ruled then-lawyer Barbara Etter should have surrendered a raft of unfiltered documents when the Legal Profession Board of Tasmania re-ignited a quenched complaint against her on the say-so of a disgruntled opponent. Etter has quit the law as a result. The LPB administers unconscionable, kangaroo-court type laws that can deprive somebody of the right to practise, earn income and advise clients – while effectively destroying their reputation – without any chance to put their side of the case before the members of the LPB.

Look before we leap on law reform

CLA Director Richard Griggs writes: It’s a very big step for our State Government to be proposing new laws to enable groups to be banned from wearing identifying badges. It’s a big step because up until now what we choose to wear has been exactly that – our choice. For our parliament to now be considering given itself the power to regulate in this area of personal choice is quite a remarkable departure from our traditional legal system

Chief Justice criticises law-and-order election auctions

Real justice – as opposed to expensive, unproductive ‘law and order’ auctions around election times – helps the victims heal as well as punishing the perpetrators, says WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin. He gives examples of progressive justice systems being introduced throughout Australia, many of them learning from the practices that imbued Aboriginal culture over tens of decades of history in Australia. Read his Sir Ninian Stephen 2018 lecture.