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March 21, 2013

Judicial Activism by Queensland Chief Justice

by dankrogers

A Chief Justice, or for that matter any Judge, should be very careful in engaging in law reform. It strikes at the heart of our constitution; the separation of powers. However, last week in a calculated and dangerous way the Chief Justice Paul de Jersey, in his presentation to the Queensland Law Society Symposium on Friday, 15 March 2013, suggested a number of criminal law reforms including:

1. Allowing for criminal histories to be made available to juries;
2. Allowing Judges to explain the concept of reasonable doubt; and
3. Requiring Defence Counsel to disclose their case prior to commencement of a trial.

Since the Chief Justice’s comments were made there has been considerable public debate and media attention over the proposed changes including a Press Release by the Queensland Law Society this week. The Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has indicated, almost immediately, that he was considering the changes proposed by the Chief Justice. These proposals represent radical changes to our criminal justice system.

The problem faced by those in strong opposition to the CJ is the unaccountability of our ‘top’ judge. There is no formal mechanism for complaint and any further discussion of these issues runs the risk that the Chief Justice’s comments gain unwanted momentum.

Perhaps a public debate on the issue is a way to force the CJ to defend his comments and allow those in opposition to show him, and the media, that these are, simply put, bad ideas.

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