Reining in the ’national security’ secrecy claims in courts

Not very long ago, a secret prisoner was discovered quite by chance in the ACT jail (even the ACT Prisons/Justice Minister did not know he was there). The prisoner, given the pseudonym ‘Alan Johns’, was a victim of being tried in secret under “national security” legislation. The laws that enable that abuse of his rights, and the rights of all Australians to know what happens in the courts, is now under detailed scrutiny by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Grant Donaldson. Here is CLA’s submission (authored by VP Rajan Venkataraman) to the process, and the separate sub of CLA member Kathryn Kelly also.

CLArion Mar 2021: Sue Neill-Fraser appeal to start, at last!

Today’s the day! Risdon prisoner Sue Neill-Fraser’s long-awaited, long-thwarted, and long-delayed appeal is due to start on 1 March 2021, this CLArion issue’s cover date. The tortuous, uphill climb to today began on 2 August 2013 when CLA President Dr Kristine Klugman and CEO Bill Rowlings briefed then-Shadow Liberal AG Vanessa Goodwin on the need for Tasmania to ‘mirror’ the then-new law in South Australia allowing a second appeal. On 2 November 2015, the now-deceased Goodwin was true to her word: the second ‘Right to Appeal’ became Tasmanian law too. Since that date – 5 1/2 years ago – SNF has been striving for an appeal court to overturn what CLA believes is her wrongful conviction for murdering husband, Bob Chappell, on their yacht moored in Sandy Bay on the night of 26 January 2009.

Appeal court could call for alleged police failures dossier

Sudden, dramatic apologies by the Tasmanian Premier and Police Commissioner over investigative and management failures by Tasmanian Police since 2009 have added a possible late-breaking, new dimension to the appeal by Sue Neill-Fraser against her murder conviction, which begins in Hobart on Monday 1 March 2021. The apologies bring back to public notice a 60-page critique of alleged police failures in the SNF investigation: it was submitted to a coroner’s court in 2014, but its contents have never seen the light of day. The appeal court could be better informed if it demands to examine the dossier.

AG wants to lead Australia on raising responsibility age

All Australian jurisdictions have agreed, after years of research and national discussions, to raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility for children from 10, but have failed to act together on an agreement reached in 2020. The ACT has decided the issue is so important that it will go it alone by the end of 2021, showing a lead to the other states and the NT, and will raise the age from 10 to 14.

What’s the rate of wrongful convictions in Australia?

No-one keeps statistics on wrongful convictions in Australia, so the rate has to be derived from overseas. Bill Rowlings of Civil Liberties Australia uses the virtually identical legal-police-courts systems in the UK, which does have a statutory authority keeping accurate figures. In Australia, the ‘headline’ rate for major crimes of 6% will surprise many people: for minor crimes, the legal system gets it wrong in about 10% of cases, questioning whether ‘justice’ in Australia needs a major commission of inquiry.

‘Shocking scandal nobody wants to touch’: MP

A South Australian MP in late-September 2020 has called in parliament for a royal commission into half a century of forensic disasters in SA that have put 400 criminal cases, and more, in doubt. He echoes calls by similar CLA in 2016 and 2019, and by others, including into a case where Australia’s longest-serving Aboriginal prisoner, Derek Bromley (photo), remains in jail 37 years after his conviction and 16 years after he could have had parole, because he refuses to admit guilt in a case where evidence from an unqualified and incompetent forensic “expert” sealed his fate.  On 12 October, Ch 9 will air yet another expose on the can of worms underlies “justice” in SA.

Australia extradites with one hand tied, costing Aussies liberty

Australia’s one-side extradition regime gives citizens of other countries much greater legal protection than Australian citizens get. Other countries simply have to allege wrongdoing, and Australia locks up – and extradites – people living in Australia. But going in the other direction, we have to prove, with evidence, our case before other nations will hand over people in their jursidiction. It’s stupid law, and even crazier civil liberties.

Kids locked in jail cell isolation 24/7

Nearly 130 children  – 55 of them Indigenous – are locked in cells in isolation 24/7 in Brisbane’s youth jail. The Covid-19 emergency has highlighted the problems – including costs – of locking up children, sometimes as young as 10 because the age of criminal responsibility is so low. Most locked-up children need professional help and special education, not to be in jail.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Statements by CLA

For all the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, then in the longer-term recovery to normal phase, civil liberties and human rights must be integrated into every decision of all authorities. While a health and emergency policing response is vital, so too is ensuring that the maximum freedoms of Australians are respected at all times. Premiers and others are in danger of forgetting peoples’ rights matter too!