Without the quick thinking of a stranger with a camera and gripping running commentary all while defying the police, we would not have heard of Jamie Jackson.
He is the young man who was charged with assaulting a Liverpool police officer after the Mardi Gras parade. Footage recorded by a passer by depicts a boyish-looking Jackson, 18, face down with an officer’s boot in his back, bleeding from the head and crying. You almost expect the next words out of his mouth to be “I want my mum”.
It’s a graphic picture of a power imbalance. But many more accused criminals may find themselves falling face first into an imbalanced criminal justice system should the top brass get their way.
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The English rule against pattern evidence (similar facts) has made it difficult to convict organised criminals and serial sex offenders for 118 years.
People in law enforcement have asked Australian governments to introduce a US exception to the rule for 29 years, without success. Charges laid against a former Catholic priest in NSW on October 18 prompted me to send the following to Premier Barry O’Farrell, Police Minister Mike Gallacher, and Justice Minister Greg Smith on October 23.
I received letters thanking me for my interest, but I will be pleasantly surprsied if the law is changed. This is what I wrote:
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Many of us wouldn’t know about the Right to Silence - a good thing. It’s only when you experience a criminal trial, either as the victim or the accused, that you will be exposed to this part of our justice system which provides the accused with, amongst other things, the right to not take the stand throughout their trial.
It’s a shock for most victims, who by the way, are not afforded this luxury, as they enter the courtroom seeking answers which often will not come.
More than 750,000 matters are initiated within the court system each year, with the vast majority (85%) resulting in guilty pleas and immediate sentencing. But there are some crimes that have spectacularly low plead rates, and arguably are those cases where victims are most vulnerable.
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Australian leaders like to claim, disingenuously, that a characteristic of the alliance with America is that Australia reserves the right to object, in a friendly if forceful way, with US policy or decisions.
No such objections have ever been publically expressed. It is time to test it.
An Australian citizen is in real trouble abroad. Julian Assange faces decades in prison in the US, which has an atrocious record for grabbing foreign suspects and holding them long years without trial.
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A child deserves to know if their father is a paedophile. A child probably deserves to know why any judge made any particular decision about custody. At some stage, when they’re ready and they have the right support, they deserve to know.
There have been a couple of extraordinary moves in the past week, attempts by the court to better explain themselves, attempts to communicate more directly with the vulnerable people their decisions affect.
Last week, a magistrate wrote to two children to explain why he awarded sole custody to their mother. Today The Courier-Mail reveals a judge ordered that a five-year-old girl be told her father is a paedophile as soon as she is deemed old enough.
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Ok, let’s get to the bottom of this Matthew Newton thing. We know he’s Bert’s son. We know he’s had recurring issues with the law. We know he’s been banged up in Miami Dade lockup overnight. And we know he’s said to be bipolar and probably needs some help.
We also know he’s an actor in Florida. Put it together, people. This thing is so stupidly obvious it’s straight out of an episode of CSI: Dumbsville. What’s Newton doing in Florida? Easy. He’s auditioning for the part of a perp in a Florida cop drama.
Think about it. After playing the bad guy in Underbelly, he has a taste for playing crims. And so, this decent, hard-working artiste who takes his craft incredibly seriously is sending a clever message to talent scouts everywhere that he is ready and available should a role come up.
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The biggest slap in my five months of house arrest came not at the start when the magistrate said he wanted to make it “as much like jail” as he could. It came only days from the end, at the hands of an elderly hospital volunteer, on one of my rare excursions into the real world.
As I walked into the foyer of the Austin Hospital for a check-up to see how my newly transplanted liver was behaving, the beaming, bespectacled old-timer asked how I was doing.
I said: “I feel great. Only 12 more days and I’m out of jail.” His mocking, condescending reply: “You weren’t in jail.” I felt like saying: “You try it, sunshine.”
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It is encouraging to see that a spirit of bipartisanship is being brought to the issue of patenting human genes.
However, it will take more than a recent House of Representatives motion calling for an end to the patenting of isolated human DNA to achieve change.
Despite the US Federal Court finding patents for the BRCA1 and 2 genes invalid, the weight of precedent is against the finding being upheld.
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Room 22B of the Federal Court of NSW grew pretty crowded as Kristy Fraser-Kirk’s $37 million sexual harassment lawsuit against David Jones, its directors and ex-CEO Mark McInnes came to a head.
But if you went to the public gallery expecting to see any of the high-profile players you’d be sorely disappointed.
While the case itself had enough salacious and emotive elements to see it dramatically splashed across print, TV and online as a top-rating story, the scene in court was one carefully cloaked in the cool, passive-aggressive language of the legal profession.
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When it comes to illicit drugs and how our society should best deal with its impact, Ken Crispin is one man to whom it is worth listening.
Crispin has been practicing law since 1972, but more relevantly, he was the Director of Public Prosecutions in the ACT from 1991 to 1994 and a judge in that jurisdiction until 2007. So this is why Crispin has made a bit of a splash over the past week by arguing that the US lead ‘War on Drugs’ which was debated and passed by Congress forty years this month, is failing our community.
Crispin, in his recently published book The Quest for Justice, has dared to say what many Australian judges and magistrates think privately to be the case. That treating illicit drug use as a criminal justice problem has not worked and will never work.
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The death of 24 year old Matthew McEvoy outside a night club in Melbourne in 2008 was as a result of acts of senseless violence by two young men, Andriyas Tello and Lauren Sako.
But as tragic as Matthew McEvoy’s death is, it is important to remember that the justice system in a democratic society is not there as a tool of revenge or bloodlust, but exists rather as a means of both protecting society and hoping that these young men do not offend in this serious way again.
David Penberthy on this site last Thursday took issue with Victorian Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan’s sentencing of Tello, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, to a period of 5 years imprisonment (Sako has already been sent to jail for 6 years with a 3 year minimum term).
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In two courts yesterday, two very different sentences were handed down, for two stomach-turning crimes which epitomise public disgust at random, life-destroying violence.
Did the courts reflect that public disgust in their sentences? Did they do their job in reflecting community standards? In one case, probably. In the other, most definitely not.
Both cases involved indiscriminate and unprompted violence, the kind of blink-of-an-eye brain-snaps which terrify every parent, where an innocent young man was jumped, king-hit and left for dead.
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About 100 nautical miles off the Australian coast on the first night of a cruise, Dianne Brimble accepted a dose of the illicit drug Fantasy from a man she barely knew.
Mark Wilhelm gave her the drug, that he admits - but the offer of a drug alone does not amount to manslaughter. This was the personal assessment of a Supreme Court of NSW judge Roderick Howie yesterday, as he took a guilty plea from Mark Robin Wilhelm to the supply of Fantasy to Ms Brimble - and he’s right.
As much as her bereaved family and others may have looked to a manslaughter conviction for vindication, the NSW DPP rightly revealed today they would no longer prosecute him for manslaughter.
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I don’t know Luke Adams. Chances are I never will. But when I viewed the graphic, and much-publicised, video of the promising footballer (and his friend) getting bashed at a Prahran Hungry Jack’s last July, my heart skipped a beat.
It was incredibly disturbing footage. On Friday, two of Adams’ attackers were sentenced in the County Court.
Mark Bogtstra, 22, received intensive corrections order, requiring community work for nine months. The man who put Adams in a headlock and let him fall to the ground, bouncer Nathan Karazisis, 24, was sentenced to two years and four months in jail, and made to serve at least a year.
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Are there any men out there who feel genuinely aggrieved at the idea that a travel company might offer packages specifically for women?
And no, I’m not talking about those of you who wish you could significantly increase your strike rate by being the only bloke on the Contiki bus. I mean men who really feel your human rights are violated by a group of women planning a chicks-only trip.
In general most people are in favour of legal protection against discrimination - if it’s the kind of discrimination that prevents someone having the same opportunities as everyone else because of some arbitrary barrier such as sex, race, or a disability. But sometimes the application of that principle is more arbitrary than the discrimination it’s trying to address.
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In Cairns, a young Queensland woman faces the prospect of up to seven years prison for something that over 14 000 women do every year in this state alone - for having an abortion. Her partner faces three years prison for assisting her.
Once-was-feminist-campaigner and now Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh is at pains to try and convince us that the charges are not related to abortion, but rather to do with the way in which the abortion took place.
Premier Bligh has feigned concern about the case – “tragic” she calls it. The Premier is a hypocrite. Her government could act immediately to bring an end to the trauma that this young couple is facing. But not only have they refused to act – they have done everything they can to further add to the isolation of the young couple.
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The humiliation of Marcus Einfeld is now complete. The NSW Court of Appeal struck him off this week, concurring with the argument of the NSW Bar Association that he is not a “fit and proper person” to practice as a lawyer ever again.
Representing the Bar Association, Barrister Christine Adamson SC said Einfeld’s speeding case showed he considered himself to be “above the law” and displayed “extraordinary hubris” in thinking he could use his “skill and ingenuity” as a respected lawyer of some 40 years to trick a court into cancelling a speeding fine.
A $77 speeding fine.The public reveled in it, as Einfeld for many years had been one of the greatest offenders of the deep-seated Australian belief that being massively up yourself is close on the worst crime a person can commit.
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A serious, if unintended problem has emerged from the last changes the Parliament made to the Family Law Act.
The changes were designed to improve shared parenting, but the safety of the child was meant to take precedence.
However it seems the courts are interpreting the changed law to mean that the right of the non-custodial parent to know the child or children is of greater consideration than the safety of the child.
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