Reform needed in WA courts

Defendants – high profile or low, colourful or drab, poor or rich – do not deserve to face huge legal bills when the government accusers get its wrong and they are proved innocent by a court. In magistrates’ courts in WA, acquitted defendants don’t pay costs, so why not the same system in superior courts, Brian Tennant says.

Reform needed in WA courtsEditor, West Australian Sir: I respond to your report “Kizon Vows revenge” p1-10+11 TWA 26 March.

The fact that His Honour Judge Wisbey threw out over 90% of the charges against John Kizon and Nigel Mansfield is a strong reason for the defendants to seek reimbursement for all costs plus compensation for pain and suffering they suffered over the past eight years…and, particularly, for the two-month District Court trial, which ended in total acquittal.

Does this trial indicate the need to reintroduce preliminary hearings, abolished by the previous State Government. A preliminary hearing before a competent magistrate could have saved millions of dollars for the defendants (whose assets were frozen for many years) and the Commonwealth Government.

I must congratulate the legal team of both Mr Mansfield and Mr Kizon for their success in convincing a District Court Judge to acquit the pair on all but four of the charges – on which Mr Mansfield was acquitted by the jury after just over one hour of deliberation.

The Defendants Cost Act is aimed at reimbursing costs to successful defendants in the Magistrates courts, and it does not discriminate between rich or poor. Hence Mr Mansfield and Mr Kizon – successful business men in their own right – would have benefited in having their costs reimbursed if the Defendants Cost Act was extended to judge and jury trials in superior courts.

In light of this extraordinary case, I call on the WA Government and the State opposition for bipartisan support to extend the Defendants Cost Act to the superior courts so that justice is not denied to successful defendants, poor or rich; after all, we are in an affluent society where the State of WA is booming, which makes this reform feasible.

Brian G Tennant
Human Rights Campaigner
Member of Civil Liberties Australia

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