Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Why was Hanson jailed and then acquitted?: Barrister Jeremy Smith argues it was basically a legal cock-up. She wasn't properly represented and the appeals court made short work of the case for conviction. "An unfortunate cock up, but remedied in 11 weeks which is not a bad turn around compared to those who spend 18 months on remand before being acquitted... The justice system is totally dependant on competent representation, and in big cases it demands specialists... Where a person will go to jail trials must be properly resourced on both sides. The High Court has ruled that an unrepresented accused in a criminal matter cannot be tried without access to representation – the matter has been on the agenda for years. Every day lawyers battle to get legal aid for their clients, and when it is granted the sums are paltry and many senior barristers won’t accept the work. So what’s the answer? Put more resources into the system, and make sure that the appeal courts are accessible and the very best are appointed to them. Many is the injustice that has been remedied on appeal."

Why aren't barristers, who are supposed to be servants of the court, on the public payroll? Rewards for skill and excellence would be not so much in terms of immense payments as in seniority in handling important cases. No private person should be permitted to address a court except as a witness, defendent or plaintiff. Publicly funded lawyering would probably be cheaper and fairer all round than the current privatized system, in a manner analagous to the public/private health care debate.

On another matter, "Scott Burchill deconstructed Howard’s latest empty platitudes: "Australians are not by nature a war-like people (only country to have fought in Boer War, WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam). There is no tradition of conquest (occupation of Vietnam, Iraq) or imperial ambition (Australian Imperial Forces). We've had no history of bloody civil war (genocidal-scale destruction of original inhabitants and their culture), of winning our independence through armed insurrection (Eureka stockade) or fortifying our borders against some constant military threat (Tampa, boat people, excising islands)."

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