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Guest Lecture: The Role of the Defence Lawyer in Ensuring a Fair Trial

I was pleased to present a guest lecture to an audience of law students at the University of Queensland last Friday. The lecture formed part of the Criminal Law and Procedure course for second and third year students at a point where the students were learning about the concept of a ‘fair trial’. In the hour that I had, I spoke about my experiences as a practising criminal defence lawyer and why I chose to practise in this area of law.

I chose criminal law for many reasons. I like representing the rights and interests of vulnerable individuals in crisis. I also like the idea of levelling the playing field when a client faces a prosecution by the State with all its might and resources. I love court rooms, advocacy and fair outcomes.

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Government commits to Parliamentary Inquiry into Human Rights Act; this will help tackle Domestic Violence

On Monday night, a large number of community organisations gathered at Parliament House to show their support for a campaign to introduce a Human Rights Act in Queensland. The Government committed to a parliamentary inquiry into a Human Rights Act in Queensland. This is a great step for our State. There is a growing momentum for this reform and the recent spate of domestic violence incidents is just another reason why we must all support human rights for Queenslanders.

The scourge that is domestic violence must stop. A multi-faceted approach is necessary. We must look to all tools within our armoury to help fight this war. A Human Rights Act should be part of the Queensland Government’s response to domestic violence. More funding, more laws and more police powers are expected outcomes from a community in crisis. However, these changes do little to drive cultural change. There is much debate about the benefits of a Human Rights Act. However, at a minimum, it is a loud statement by our elected Government about who we are and what we value.

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Catherine Holmes was named Queensland’s Chief Justice last night after two months of deliberations by the Queensland Government.  This is a fine appointment and the Government ought to be congratulated on restoring integrity to the process of appointing judicial officers in this State. The announcement comes after the resignation of previous Chief Justice Tim Carmody, whose term lasted less than a year after his controversial appointment. Promisingly, Shadow Attorney-General Ian Walker has offered his Party’s support to the new Chief Justice.

Although yesterday’s appointment followed all the proper conventions and protocols, there remains the need for serious discussion by the Government concerning the establishment of a Judicial Commission. Queensland’s Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath did not promise to introduce a Judicial Commission upon Carmody’s resignation. However, the ‘Carmody Saga’ should not be quickly forgotten as it highlights the need for the establishment of a Judicial Commission.  A Queensland Commission would be an independent body that protects fundamental principles of independence and accountability from heavily political appointments.

There are other benefits of a judicial commission. The New South Wales Commission, as an example, investigates and reports on consistency of sentencing, provides ongoing education for judicial officers and examines complaints against judicial officers. More importantly, however, is its role in advising and reporting to the attorney-general on appointments.