EXTREMISM AT NEW HEIGHTS: NEWMAN NOW ATTACKS LAWYERS
Yesterday’s comments by Premier Campbell Newman represent a dangerous and unprecedented attack upon hard working members of the legal profession. Newman suggests that lawyers are part of the bikies “criminal gang machine”. In saying this, he suggests that solicitors facilitate the commission of criminal offences.
As a solicitor of this State, I find these comments deeply disturbing. They strike at the very heart of the profession’s reputation and trust among the community. Both the President of the Queensland Law Socety and the Queensland Bar Association responded publicly and quickly. This was very good to see given that a failure to publicly respond to such serious allegations would potentially, leave those in the community believing that there is some truth to these ridiculous claims. The reality is that lawyers are subject to onerous ethical obligations owed to the court. Lawyers are officers of the court.
On a broader level, the comments by Newman represent an attack upon fundamental principles underpinning our justice system including the presumption of innocence and the right to legal representation. In fact, the Government’s tough stance on so-called “bikies”, through the introduction of solitary confinement, mandatory sentences and reverse onus provisions, render the right to representation even more important.
Others have responded publicly describing the Premier as childish and lacking an understanding of the criminal justice system. Peter Shields is correct when he states that the comments are highly offensive to every criminal defence lawyer. However, it is re-assuring to see that the majority of the public’s response seems to understand why the Premier has overstepped the mark. See for example, the Courier Mail’s article. It is clear that the community has a much greater understanding of the role of lawyers than the Premier cares to give them credit for.