CLA’s policy on criminal justice All Australians are entitled to protection from arbitrary arrest and unnecessary detention; to a fair, speedy and public trial; to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and to legal advice and representation.
Sentencing should be based on the principle of rehabilitation wherever possible.
dAs the health crisis stretches into months, governments are becoming more authoritarian by the week. Police and military enforcement squads are on the streets. The open air freedom of beaches is denied citizens. People are copping large fines for walking together and talking to each other. From full support for emergency crackdown measures, governments risk alienating the citizenry if their exercise of power becomes unbalanced and out-of-kilter with people’s sense of a fair go. Whatever occurs over the next few months, it is obviously time for a total overhaul of the rights and liberties, the personal freedoms, of Australians. Covid-19 is showing how much we need a national Human Rights Act. Other items in this issue:
Members: please write to us about the National Cabinet, what the future looks like
Are we Freaking Out and Running Around?
Bashing the ABC is facilitated by skewed Q+As
Govt delays report on religious freedom
Prisoner emergency: governments must act to protect prisoners
Man fined for being hungry and homeless
ODD SPOT: Australia – the country that can’t, says Michael Kirby
Kiwis get new justice ’safety valve’; what about Oz?
Forensic science labs ‘on brink of collapse’: regulator
As Iran releases 100,000 prisoners, Australian jails are still packed with the potential for major COVID-19 spread into the community, Paul Gregoire writes for Sydney Criminal Lawyers. And, as usual, Indigenous prisoners are relatively most at risk because of their large numbers and poor health. The WHO and UN have warned Australia about the potential for jails to spread the pandemic. ‘Prison health is a matter of public health’.
Difficult questions are starting to arise around the human rights implications of the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia. The delicate balancing act between minimising harm and infringing on liberties is occurring in a way many of us have not experienced before, legal bioethicist Caitlin Davis says as she explores the issues.
Prisoners are worried, very worried. Locked away, often two to a cell, they are more prone to a contagious virus than just about any sector of society. Governments have a responsibility to take special efforts to protect their health. And governments are also responsible for ensuring that any quarantined group, including arrivals from flights or cruises, are also looked after according to the OPCAT treaty standards that Australia and every state and territory government has signed up to.
As the virus crisis bites deeper into daily life, more people are starting to question what freedoms and liberties we are giving up at the behest of an ever-shrinking ‘executive’ ruling group, comprising a hotch-potch of people from MPs to mining bosses and public servants with interesting track records. CLA member Carolyn van Langenberg airs some opinions alternate to the mainstream groupthink.
The NT is planning to introduce a Judicial Commission to deal with the problem of judges bullying lawyers. A parliamentary committee is considering submissions – but none of the submissions, other than that from CLA – proposes having truly independent people on the commission and its investigatory panels…or even mandatory Indigenous representationl. Changes to the current bill are vital if justice is to be seen to be done, and to be done, to lawyers and their clients in the NT, CLA says.
The NT Parliament is proposing a Judicial Commission to solve major problems of bullying by judges and magistrates, as well as lengthy delays in delivering some judgements. CLA has told the parliamentary committee that the absence of any independent legal expert from outside the NT, and the possibility of the commission having no Indigenous representatives, needs fixing.
The annual general meeting of members of Civil Liberties Australia Inc (CLA). was conducted over February-March 2020. It comprised a vote to make minor changes to the CLA Constitution to align wholly with a Model Constitution of the ACT, and votes to approve the 2019 Annual Report, Treasurer’s Financial Statement and President’s Report. Some 43% of members voted: all who voted approved all items up for voting. The detailed figures and a wide range of the comments made by members with their votes are in the DECLARATION OF POLL document.
A new book revealing the doings inside a now-closed ‘mental asylum’ is an important contribution to civil liberties and human rights. It is a timely reminded – as a health panic starts to threaten more government abuse – that it is vital to keep shining torches into those places that authorities would prefer are forgotten. Review by Reg. Murray.
Other nations are already showing Australia the way on how to mass deaths in prisons: they are letting lower-range and particular prisoners free, at least for the duration of the world health emergency. It’s time the Australian states and territories did something similar…and took the opportunity to remove from prison some people who probably should not be there, CLA says.