IF YOU had been in Melbourne yesterday and fancied a little light entertainment, the place to be would have the Magistrates Court, where accused killer Lansley Simon appeared in the dock. Or parts of him did, anyway, because he hid beneath a red T-shirt while his lawyer argued that court artists needed to be prohibited from sketching his client's likeness. As the Phage reports, the magistrate agreed to the request and banned the publication of any image for next 30 days, a ruling the defendant celebrated by shouting "Why don't youse all f#*k off" at the assembled media.
As far as is known, Simon belongs to no religion that eschews the graven image, so a devout nature cannot have figured in the magistrate's deliberations. The logic behind the decision, however, is not explained, at least not by the Age, so the curious are left as much in the dark as was Simon when he pulled his head into that T-shirt.
Now here is the funny thing: If you had been in court, perhaps to have a gander at Simon's ex and mother to his three nippers, the bodacious barrister and gangland sweetheart Zarah Garde-Wilson, you could have studied every line and wrinkle on the accused's face. But if you were otherwise occupied with, say, Christmas shopping, playing golf and pruning the tree outside the master bedroom in a bid to stop possums leaping loudly onto the garage roof, no such luck.
It is a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but aren't the courts financed from the public purse? So why, at a public proceeding, did a magistrate restrict what the taxpayers might see. On one of Melbourne's radio stations a couple of weeks ago, some or other reporter was complaining that she could not describe what she had witnessed in another courtroom because the judge had imposed a suppression order. Yet another judge recently allowed the publication of a defendant's name but insisted that his ethnicity not be mentioned. According to the radio reporter, judges and magistrates do this sort of thing all the time.
Several lawyers read this little blog, as do a number of press people. If any can explain why judges seem so willing to deny the public the details of what goes on the courtrooms we all pay for, please feel free to do so in comments. Have the courts scratched the last bit of that admonition about justice not only needing to be done, but needing to have been seen to be done?
Oh, just in case you are curious, Simon is accused of invading an associate's home and stabbing him in the stomach with a bayonet -- a shrinking violent violet, allegedly.