INVOLVEMENT IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUES AND LAW REFORM 1973-1991
Between 1973 and 1991, the author was heavily involved in controversial issues of constitutional reform, crime and punishment, inadequacy of police powers in Victoria, the link between soaring crime rates and the decline of the traditional family, and disturbing trends that appeared to be undermining the quality of education in Australia. He wrote and contributed to books, published articles, and participated in public lectures to address these issues and alert Australians to the problems that they were facing. Those books and articles are listed here. To involve senior officers of the Crown, the judiciary, lawyers and the public in dialogue about these issues, the author began to convene and organise public symposia from 1973.
The First National Symposium on Law and Justice, 1973
The author convened and organised the First National Symposium on Law and Justice at Canberra in 1973. This public symposium was opened by the Attorney-General of Australia, and the purpose of the symposium was to expose the need for major reforms to the criminal justice system and to address the hotly debated issue of whether organised crime existed in Australia at that time. Some of the proposals were:
* establishment of prosecuting authorities in Australia who would be independent of government and be called Directors of Public Prosecutions
* recognition that organised crime existed (despite denials by senior criminologists) and posed a serious danger for Australia; and
* establishment of a national forensic science research institute.
All of these were novel concepts in Australia in 1973, but all have since been recognised as valid by Australian governments.
The Second National Symposium on Law and Justice, 1977
The author convened and organised the Second National Symposium on Law and Justice at Canberra in 1977. This public symposium was opened by the Attorney-General of Australia, and the purpose of this symposium was to expose the need for major reforms to the criminal justice system. Some of the matters discussed were:
* the need to establish an independent Director of Public Prosecutions in the Australian Capital Territory;
(Note: Victoria was the first State to adopt the concept of an independent Director of Public Prosecutions, and the office was largely modelled on the proposals put forward at the two Canberra symposia convened by the author) ;
* the need to protect victims of sexual crimes against unfairness in the witness box produced by unjustified intrusion into their personal backgrounds;
* the potential for psychiatrists to usurp the role of the jury in criminal trials;
* the potential dangers and social costs of legalised casinos; and
* the need to strike a balance between freedom of information and the right to privacy.
All of these concepts were subsequently acknowledged by government and law courts as valid, and all proposals have either been enshrined in Australian laws, acknowledged by the courts, or acknowledged in other relevant ways.
The First Melbourne Criminal Justice Symposium, 1987
The author's own experience in jury trials convinced him that some of the serious problems associated with trial by jury needed to be aired publicly, and he convened and organised this symposium for that purpose. This public symposium was opened by the Honourable Sir Daryl Dawson, KBE, CB, Justice of the High Court of Australia.
Issues discussed by judges and senior criminal lawyers at this symposium included:
* an evaluation of the role of the jury in criminal trials, and comparison with judge only trials in Holland;
* proposals for making the task of the jury easier, with particular reference to trials involving complex technical evidence; and
* improving the quality of juries and enhancing the jury's awareness of its role.
Matters raised in the second and third topics at this symposium have influenced reform of aspects of trial by jury in Victoria.
The Second Melbourne Criminal Justice Symposium, 1991
The author convened and organised the Second Melbourne Criminal Justice Symposium in 1991 to confront major crime and criminal justice issues that he felt were being placed in the "too hard" basket. Topics discussed by senior criminal lawyers, criminologists, drug experts, and members of the public included:
* Confronting Australia's crime problem and consideration of crime control strategies;
* Evaluation of claimed links between pornography and crime, and between depicted violence and imitative crime;
* arguments for and against decriminalisation of illicit drugs; and
* educating for a more law-abiding society.
The author's opposition to a Bill of Rights for Australia
Over two decades, the author campaigned strongly in public lectures and published articles against three attempts to introduce a Federal Bill of Rights in Australia, one attempt to introduce a mini Bill of Rights in the Australian Constitution, and one attempt to introduce a Declaration of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution of the State of Victoria. He claimed that a Bill of Rights was an eighteenth century concept that had failed completely to protect rights in the Soviet Union. In the United States, a Bill of Rights had produced uncertainty as to rights because some judges had allowed their political alignments and personal social values to influence their interpretation of the Bill of Rights.
The author argued that a democratically elected parliament was the best protection of rights and freedoms because politicians are answerable to the people who elect them. A Bill of Rights, on the other hand, places too much power in the hands of unelected judges who are not accountable to the public. He pointed out that rights tend to be declared in very general terms in a Bill of Rights, and this provides a temptation for a government with a radical reform agenda to appoint judges who will interpret a Bill of Rights in ways that could not be achieved in democratically elected parliaments.
All attempts by Leftist governments to introduce a Bill of Rights at Federal and State levels in Australia have been defeated by public opinion.