Law reform

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Cross-bench Senator Nick Xenophon wants the law to change to protect gift card holders when companies collapse. Gemma Najem/AAP

Xenophon is right to call for law reform on gift cards

It's not good to make law changes as a knee-jerk reaction, but in the case of insolvency and gift cards, it's time.
Today many donor-conceived children are adults and the impacts on their sense of identity have become clear, so Victoria is set to open the records of formerly anonymous donors. Reuters/Kacper Pempel

As Victoria opens sperm donor records, the key question is: do contact vetoes work?

In a world first, Victoria plans to retrospectively open the records of formerly anonymous sperm donors to all donor-conceived people. A system of contact vetoes aims to manage the privacy concerns.
Easton Woodhead has been found not guilty of murder on the basis of mental impairment, but he did not walk free from the court. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

How the insanity defence against a murder charge works

Despite the many people with mental illness who go to prison, successful defences of mental impairment are rare. But this is not a 'get out of jail free' card and should be more accessible.
A national regulator is proposed to oversee cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes in Australia. Dank Depot/Flickr

From farm to pharmacy: regulating medicinal cannabis in Australia

The Commonwealth plans to legalise local production of cannabis for medical and research purposes; as do Victoria and NSW. But what laws need to change for all of this to work?
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…

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