400 convictions falsely based: ‘catastrophic failure’ of legal system

CLA on Australia Day 2019 asked SA Attorney-General Vickie Chapman for a Royal Commission into 400 convictions over 30 years based on faulty forensic evidence. She refused. But, the situation is identical to the ‘Lawyer X’ issue in Victoria, where a Royal Commission is inquiring into “illegal” evidence accepted by the courts. Here, author Andrew Urban and SA legal academic Dr Bob Moles explain why she must change her mind so that she abides by the rule of law.

Qld bets on financial inquiry to stop jails leaking money

An inquiry of fundamental importance to prisoners and prisons throughout Australia is under way in Queensland. The state government has charged the Qld Productivity Commission with taking a cold, hard, financial and performance look at how jails are operating. The answer, from their first draft report, is extremely poorly. Prisons in the state are overcrowded massively, they don’t rehabilitate prisoners (50% are back within two years) and they cost huge amounts of money now, with projections suggesting $6 billion more within a decade…and that’s just for new buildings, not running costs. If Qld can find a cost-effective remedy, the solution will ripple round Australia nearly as quickly as a Trump tweet.

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.

Quality of mercy is strained beyond hope

How many refugees and asylum seekers are on Nauru and Manus. How long have they been there now? What is their future? How many have left either for their home country or for other destinations? It’s hard to know, because precise details are kept from us. Whatever the number is, some people have been there since 2012, and their current situation is unconscionable.

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.

‘Lawful but awful’ policing is problem here too

A new book that outlines the problems of policing in America over the past two decades has widespread lessons for Australia also. While Australian police don’t kill around 1000 citizens a year, the tunnel vision and confirmation bias attitudes, coupled with the propensity to lie because of twisted mateship, are exactly mirrored in Australia. As are problems stemming from excessive powers and secret linkages between federal police and  security bodies and state police.