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May 24, 2013

Queensland Chief Justice continues to push law reform

by dankrogers

On 15 March 2013, the CJ shocked the Brisbane legal community by engaging in ‘law and order’ politics – see post on 21 March 2013. Today, he is at it again. Terry O’Gorman, the Australian President for the Civil Loberties Council had this to say

Chief Justice de Jersey should stop politicking in calling for criminal law changes which are essentially political issues, Civil Liberties Council Vice-President Terry O’Gorman said today.

Mr O’Gorman said that reports in today’s Courier Mail that the Chief Justice will today tell a Townsville Law Conference that Judges should be able to make adverse comments to jurors about accused people failing to disclose relevant information about a crime when they are being interviewed by police is a frontal attack on the centuries old right to silence.

“Whether there should be a change to this most basic civil liberty is a political debate which the Chief Justice should stay out of” Mr O’Gorman said.

Mr O’Gorman said that Judges were bound by rules requiring them not to comment on political issues which should be left to the Government of the day.

“While it is permissible for the Chief Justice to comment on matters affecting the running of the courts such as court budgets and the like, the Chief Justice should stay out of political debates” Mr O’Gorman said.

“Yet Chief Justice de Jersey has started this particular political debate about his desire to abolish the right to silence.  He is acting like a law and order politician” Mr O’Gorman said.

Mr O’Gorman said that the Judicial Conference of Australia which is Australia’s peak body for Judges released a policy in October 2012 which provides that “…judicial officers should not be participants in the political process.  That is not their constitutional role and the due performance of that role can be compromised by straying into the political arena…if Judges start to appear and sound like politicians, particularly in the political debate, their standing as Judicial Officers can be seriously affected.”

Mr O’Gorman said that abolishing the right to silence is fundamentally a political question as it goes to the heart of the power of the State being used by police officers in police stations while questioning suspects.

“Chief Justice de Jersey should heed the policy of his fellow Australian Judges and stop acting like a law and order politician and observe the principles of judicial reticence as the rest of his colleagues on the Bench in Queensland and around Australia are obliged to do” Mr O’Gorman said.

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