Law reform AG asked to hold Royal Commission

The fairness and quality/integrity of the legal/justice system in South Australia remains questionable following the Henry Keogh case. The State of SA has compensated Keogh $2.5m for his wrongful murder conviction and 19 innocent years in jail. However, forensic and other legal errors around the Keogh case may have been duplicated in 400 other major SA trials over the past 50 years. CLA has  – again,  we also asked in 2016 – asked SA Attorney-General Vickie Chapman to call a Royal Commission to clear the air: she personally and the Liberal State Government have committed to law reform as part of their platform in winning government.

Want to know about pill testing at music festivals?

Here’s a detailed, sober assessment of the issues around pill testing at music and dance festivals, written by a group who have lost children to drug-taking. Unfortunately, its opening lines – written on 12 Jan 2019 – are out of date: there’s been another music festival death since then. Police put their trust in sniffer dogs (accuracy rate, about 27%, a NSW Ombudsman study shows), and politicians promote prohibition. With teens and twenties, who come alive to to the beat of music, that works about as well as telling young people not to experiment with sex.

Dutton devalues sex register by false, overblown claims

Minister Peter Dutton is devaluing a most important and needed public debate, apparently for political purposes, about preventing child sex abuse. “The way he has gone about what amounts to a sham consultation is a very clear indication that he and the government are much more concerned about the upcoming federal election than bringing in better and effective protection for children than exists now,” CLA CEO Bill Rowlings says. “From the outset of this media silly season thought bubble, Minister Dutton has made outrageous claims, quoted inappropriate sources and combined figures for categories of offences in a way that would see him charged with fraud if he were to do something similar in a commercial prospectus.” There is no evidence to support Mr Dutton’s claims that a sex register would work, he said.

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.