Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blind Justice

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.


  1. The most common myth is that the discretion of the court mostly favours the defendent. Where innocent men are being set up it serves no one (besides the innocent man and his family) to allow the case to transgress the boundaries of the agreed upon model of criminality. "All men are rapists" "Women never lie about rape"

    What about Patrick Waring ? Easy to deep 6 that one, and for all thier uselessness, the Australian Bolshievek Collective were the only ones with the guts to carry that story through. Ditto Andrew Mallard. Check out the misuse of Section 36 of the Evidence Act in WA.

    Civil Rights is never a Leftie cause though it has been suborned as such. Civil Rights should be a rallying cry to all small "l" Liberals.

    It is only after you have been arrested and charged over evidence you can prove is false, only to have your evidence made inadmissable on Leftie inspired social engineering initiatives and spend two years in jail and lose everything you own before having your conviction overturned..... "Holy Crap this means War" cries the DPP since they are on a KPI system of management. They muster thier forces, go thier hardest (state has deep pockets - they know yours might be running out, right about now, they sand bag proccedings)and after being rehammered by the prosecuter lest you be one that "got away" Jury thinks different since - this time they get to actually see the evidence - aquitted Wheww !! do you think to yourself ..... "That was a wierd one !"

    It can happen to any of you ... Dont ever talk to the coppers. "you have the right to remain silent and so do that" when you emerge from your bafflement in the concrete grey of the lockup your lawyer will be so thrilled you stayed shtum. And eventually so will you... once your realise how the game is played.

  2. When it comes to slippery slopes there's none slipperier than the icy slope sitting under our Victorian judges. This sort of thing starts with children and victimized paedophiles and ends with basically anyone who asks.

  3. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.December 14, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    Silence, it sseems, really is golden. Thank you Mark for some good advice for all.

  4. I believe there is an old tenet that justice is supposed to take place in the open, another similarly exhorts that justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done. These principles are intended to reassure us that the laws that protect us are being applied properly.

    It seems some judges have decided it is enough that they tell us justice is being carried out, presumably because they know it is, and we might not understand.

    Again, they are protecting us from ourselves.

  5. See Christopher Booker (say, here or here) for an ongoing examination of the way judges of the UK’s Family Division are treating parents as guilty until proven innocent beyond any doubt.
    Meanwhile, Greg Combet supports corrupt foreigners imposing fines and other extrajudicial penalties on any country which doesn’t subscribe to his idiotic demonisation of carbon dioxide.

  6. Mark's comment doesn't really answer the Prof's question, so I will have a stab at it. I am a solicitor, but I answer more from a philosphical viewpoint than a professional one.

    Personally, I think that all accused in criminal cases should remain anonymous as far as the media is concerned until they are found guilty. The public interest that the courts serve, Prof, is the adminstration of justice, not prurient interest of the media to get a juicy story. Justice requires that an accused person is innoicent until proven guilty. If the media drop the defendant's name all over the front pages, it is likely that the accused will be convicted in the court of public opinion even if not in the court. That could seriously affect the accused life if he is acquitted.

  7. Anonymous solicitor,
    since we now have the technology to have instant replays and lengthy referrals to other umpires in sports, what about keeping even the jury away from the accused and the witnesses? Now, if a jury hear an illegitimate comment, for example, the judge can but admonish someone and direct the jury to forget that they ever heard what was said—which, of course, they can’t; if, however, the jury were in another room, hearing evidence by way of CCTV with a delay, the judge could order that inadmissible evidence or prejudicial comments or lengthy and confusing legal arguments be deleted and not transmitted to the jury.

  8. @Anonymous solicitor,

    interesting position but what does it do for persons who are being sought, e.g. Malcolm Naden in NSW.

    The Police have advised who they are seeking and why. Leaving out either piece of information wouldn't help.

    Has this coloured the prospects on any future trial? I'd guess yes.

  9. "The public interest that the courts serve, Prof, is the administration of justice".

    I don't believe that's true. Let me explain why.

    If it were true, then information during a court case would not be suppressed, as it frequently is.

    I'm a highly qualified research scientist and I'm very experienced in handling data, which is precisely what suppressed information is.

    If you want to know the truth then all data has to be on the table. Certainly it should be qualified and tested. However, if an alleged murderer, for example, comes before a jury, it is pertinent and important data that he has previously murdered twice before, or that he'd been investigated for a similar case previously.

    Just as a scientist would use that data so can a jury. Until this aspect of the law is corrected, it remains a joke (at least to research scientists who make a livelihood discovering facts).

  10. PhillipGeorge(c)2011December 14, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    Judges should be subservient to Juries;
    beginning and end of story. If the Jury is unhappy the Foreman should dismiss the Judge.

    Good old Sir Edward coke put it point blank. Juries are to decide facts and judges are to oversee process.

    Once a prima facie case is established the jury should run/ do both verdict and sentencing.

    The mess would be costly and time consuming but it would restore the missing confidence in the system.

    You read it first at the Billabong. Where the rubber of Justice meets the road of Cyberspace.

    [Written spoken and authorized by a real human being]

  11. The usual reason for suppression of images is that identification of the perpetrator is at issue in the case. No idea why this application in particular was granted, though.

  12. You'll find, Anon 0242, the perp has a son/daughter who could be identified and teased at school.
    It's for the children...

  13. As the murdered parties Aunt I find I should make comment. The accused gave up all rights in any court when he handed himself in for the murder of my nephew, who by the way was no ' associate' of the accused having only just met the man that weekend. He concealed his identity so as not to be recognised by others who may wish to do him harm while in custody.

  14. As a friend to friend of a member of the jury the police never did there job and ensured he would be free, its a age old system of paying of a debt, I am sorry for the aunt or the family of the young guy who had his life removed by a cold blooded killer, but the killer could not have been acquitted unless the police failed in their duty to ensure a conviction. The jury left bewildered and upset that a guilty man was let free and Im sure will do it again.