Law reform

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The Law Reform Commission has likely given George Brandis much more than he was expecting in the review of rights-limiting laws that he asked for. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Brandis receives long list of rights-limiting laws – now can he justify them?

The federal government has to be on the back foot after a Law Reform Commission report identified that It has been the champion of many rights-limiting laws.
An issue to emerge from the royal commission hearings is the inadequacy of existing law for dealing with institutions whose negligence made child sexual abuse possible. AAP/Royal Commission

When institutions let child sexual abuse happen, that should be a crime

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published a research paper that suggests organisations be held criminally responsible when their negligence results in harm to children.
Joe Hockey’s successful defamation case against Fairfax Media raises questions about the extent to which politicians should be able to sue in relation to publications about their public conduct. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Hockey v Fairfax should start the debate on defamation law reform

Hockey v Fairfax illustrates that recent legal and technological developments still pose challenges for defamation law, which has not been reformed to keep pace with these changes.
Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszcuk and Attorney General Yvette D'Ath may be missing the bigger picture on the legal defence of provocation. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Queensland still failing to act on a medieval murder defence

The Queensland government wants to abolish the "gay panic defence", but it's yet to act on the bigger legal problem: "provocation", which is also used to defend murders in heterosexual relationships.
Public pressure to be ‘tough’ on crime can lead governments to neglect some of our deadliest problems, such as family violence. Paul Miller/AAP

If you want to cut crime, you can’t ignore the evidence

Queensland has a new Labor minority government, led by Annastacia Palaszczuk, after the shock defeat of the Liberal National Party. Labor’s pre-election promises were “modest”, leaving many now wondering…
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…
Family First senator Bob Day’s proposed changes to Section 18C have been given fresh prominence since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. AAP/Lukas Coch

Charlie Hebdo attacks provide a false pretext for 18C debate

Early in 2014, federal Attorney-General George Brandis released a proposal to significantly amend our law against racial vilification, Sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act, on the strength…
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…
We all have the legal right to refuse health care. Warren Goldswain

It’s your choice: how to plan for a better death

Have you thought about how you would want to be treated if you cannot make your own decisions? You may be unconscious after car accident, you may be so ill you cannot communicate, or you may be dying and…
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…
Proportionality in sentencing cannot be achieved through mandatory sentences created as a result of an overreaction to community fear and outrage. AAP/Dave Hunt

Mandatory sentences can’t deliver justice or stop one-punch killings

The Victorian government’s introduction of the Sentencing Amendment (Coward’s Punch Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2014 this week has again sparked debate about the deterrence value and general utility…
For acting on a NSW Law Reform Commission review of bail laws, Greg Smith was pilloried for having gone from ‘Rambo’ in opposition to ‘marshmallow soft’ on crime as attorney-general. Daily Telegraph

Is rational law reform still possible in a shock-jock tabloid world?

The New South Wales government’s decision to “review” and amend the new Bail Act after only one month in operation illustrates worrying trends in public policymaking relevant to all jurisdictions. It raises…
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…
Who’s looking at who when drones take to the sky? Flickr/fisl quinze

Drones finally get MPs talking tougher on privacy laws

The increasing use of drone aircraft in Australia may finally lead to a long overdue change in privacy laws to protect against the use of remote eyes and ears in invasive technologies. The call for tougher…
Reforming Victorian homicide law has been a long process, but a bill introduced today is a significant step forward. AAP/Dave Hunt

Victorian homicide law reforms ensure just responses to violence

Victorian attorney-general Robert Clark today introduced a bill into parliament that repeals the offence of defensive homicide. The bill signifies a significant step forward in ensuring just responses…
Giving care leavers special access to their records might be one way to help them achieve justice, recognition and a firmer sense of belonging and community. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Not just about abuse: records access is key to care leavers' identity

“You have the records of our abuse.” So read the placards held by protesters outside hearings of the Royal Commission and the recent Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse. These protesters…
Responses to violence through human trafficking and slavery demand a multifaceted approach including governments, according to a new report. shutterstock

Cracking down on slavery and human trafficking in NSW

The NSW Community Relations Commission today released a report which found the NSW government is failing to adequately acknowledge or respond to reports of human trafficking and slavery. While many in…
The reason few errors are discovered is that it’s so hard to identify them. Image from

Truth or lies: overturning wrongful convictions

A person is wrongly convicted of a serious crime, then fresh evidence reveals they are, in fact, innocent. It’s a thriller movie formula and you’d hope that if this were to happen, justice would prevail…

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