Articles on Justice

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Research has shown that when sex work is illegal, street sex workers who are victims of sexual assault are reluctant to report it to police. shutterstock

Victorian rape law needs reform to protect sex workers

There is a non-binding precedent in Victoria that allows judges to consider the victim's sexual experience when passing sentence on a sex offender – but only when the "victim is a prostitute".
Lana Towers was murdered by her partner. The court heard statements on the impact of her death on family and friends and, for the first time, on the broader community impacts of domestic violence. Facebook

Don’t expect ‘world first’ impact statement to transform sentencing

In May 2013, Michael Suve McDonald beat to death Lana Towers, his partner of eight years and the mother of their two children. In what is thought to be a world first, the South Australian Commissioner…
Should Australia’s High Court judges be representative of the community that their rulings affect? Should politics play a part? AAP/Lukas Coch

Appointing Australia’s highest judges deserves proper scrutiny

Late last week, the federal government appointed Geoffrey Nettle, a Victorian Court of Appeal judge, to the High Court to replace retiring justice Susan Crennan. Nettle is an excellent lawyer and his appointment…
The Productivity Commission rightly identified widespread concerns that Australia’s civil justice system is too slow, too expensive and too adversarial. shutterstock

Extra funding for legal assistance services should only be a start

The Productivity Commission raised a few eyebrows when it called for an additional A$200 million for legal assistance services to disadvantaged Australians, who are “more susceptible to, and less equipped…
A grand jury decision not to indict a police officer over the shooting death of Michael Brown has sparked protests and questions over the system’s efficacy. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Only in America: why Australia is right not to have grand juries

The idea of the grand jury is already familiar to many Australians through American television legal drama. But its profile just skyrocketed with a grand jury deciding not to indict policeman Darren Wilson…
Plea bargaining in our criminal justice system receives far more negative than positive attention. AAP/Dave Hunt

In plea bargaining, who really gets the bargain?

Plea bargaining consistently attracts more attention than almost any other aspect of the criminal justice system. Recently, it has received more attention than usual after US District Court judge Jed Rakoff…
Kicking foreign prisoners out isn’t – and shouldn’t be – easy. Yorkshire Police

Why it’s difficult to deport foreign offenders

Once upon a time, you could tell an election was just around the corner when politicians of all kinds started talking relentlessly about crime. “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” was Tony Blair’s…
A Welcome to Country ceremony opens Darwin’s new $500 million facility last month to house rising numbers of prisoners, 85% of whom are Indigenous, a grossly overrepresented group. AAP/Neda Vanovac

Justice reinvestment saves huge costs of law-and-order auctions

A number of reports, most recently Victorian and NSW crime statistics, show crime rates are falling. But as election time looms in these states, their governments’ focus on tough law-and-order policies…
Police and Muslim leaders have joined forces to call for harmony, but just and fair treatment in counter-terrorism operations is needed to reassure the Islamic community. AAP/Mal Fairclough

Fairness and trust make all the difference in countering terrorism

Muslim communities in Australia feel under siege. It is evident from media reports that they feel unfairly targeted by counter-terrorism policing. They also feel vilified by much of the reporting of these…
Cases involving mental health are mostly heard in Victoria’s Supreme Court. They are complex, costly - and rare. Smith, Johnson/ Wikimedia Commons

‘Crazed killer’ headlines defy facts of crime and mental impairment

Few things cause more public alarm than the notion of the “crazed killer” walking our streets. A common figure in newspaper headlines and current affairs shows, he (occasionally she) is often accompanied…
Justice and forgiveness can co-exist so that one may encourage the other. Steve Calcott/Flickr

Eye for an eye? Why punishing the wrongdoer helps us forgive

One of the inevitable things in life is that someone will do or say something to upset and hurt us. While forgiveness is a good way to overcome such hurts, we also don’t want people to get away with what…
Debate surrounding the law’s response to lethal domestic violence has led to significant law reform activity over the last 20 years. AAP/Dave Hunt

Laws on lethal domestic violence should be reviewed – nationally

The law’s response to lethal domestic violence in Australia raises complex issues. It requires a delicate balance to be struck between ensuring a just response to those who kill in response to prolonged…
Lawyers like George Newhouse deserve praise, not abuse, when they go to court to ensure people are protected by the rule of law. AAP/Paul Miller

Lawyers who help people protect their rights aren’t the problem here

Australia’s courts serve us well, acting independently in their application of the law. However, that doesn’t protect them from attacks for performing their legal and constitutional duties. Similarly…
Being arrested does not make a person guilty and deserving of punishment; that’s what a trial determines. AAP/NSW Police

Not for punishment: we need to understand bail, not review it

Courts make hundreds of bail decisions every week but we rarely hear about them. In the past month in New South Wales, however, we have heard much about three high-profile decisions granting bail to: Steven…
A recent Ombudsman’s report is damning of the Victorian criminal justice sector, particularly around issues of accountability and transparency. shutterstock

Lifting the veil on the crisis in Victoria’s prisons

Victorian Ombudsman George Brouwer’s report on deaths and harm in Victorian prisons may have largely sailed under the public radar, but it shines a rare spotlight on the levels of systemic harm in custody…
We should continue to agitate for fairer, cheaper and more just legal systems, after a Productivity Commission draft report noted the difficulties for many in accessing justice. AAP/Dave Hunt

‘Slow, expensive, complicated’ legal system must be improved

Half of all Australians will experience a legal problem this year. Most won’t get legal assistance or come into contact with our courts or other legal institutions. In part, this is because Australia’s…
There hasn’t been a radical increase in violent acts on public transport, despite growing public concern. AAP/Dan Peled

Tranquil travel: violence on our public transport networks

Last month, a video of an elderly man’s alleged assault on a Gold Coast bus went viral on social media after a passenger filmed the confrontation. The incident put the sometimes-ignored issue of violence…

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