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Thoughts on Our Justice System and Pell’s Case

Read on for an analysis of the Australian Justice System in the wake of the Pell Acquittal and two other noteworthy cases from Butler's Principal Nambour Solicitor Peter Boyce.

I was recently reading a statement made by the former Chief Justice Gerard Brennan which was an ethics quote as follows "I sometimes wonder whether today’s lawyers—like the lawyers of an earlier age—realise that when they are performing the daily, and sometimes boring, tasks of the profession, they are implementing the rule of law and are thereby underpinning the peace and order, the freedom and security of society." Gerard Brennan, ‘The rule of law—every day: Insights into the application of justice’ (2013) 33(2) Proctor 22.

That got me thinking about how fortunate we are to have our justice system in Australia.

From time-to-time, there are many critics of the system and Judges cop unreasonable criticism on most occasions from the press about sentencing options and whether the sentence is too lenient however, that fails to recognise the balancing a Judge has to do when sentencing a person who pleads guilty or is found guilty.

That is however, not the point of this commentary.

Perhaps the best example of identifying that our justice system is alive and well is to be seen in three recent decisions of the High Court which are as follows:

1. Pell v The Queen [2020] HCA 12;

2. Steven Mark John Fennell v The Queen [2019] HCA 37; and

3. Lee v Lee; HSU v RACQ insurance Limited; Lee v RACQ Insurance Limited [2019] HCA 28.

Each of these decisions are where the respective State’s Court of Appeal decision has been overturned by the High Court.

The High Court, in Pell’s case, stated on at least two occasions that there was a significant possibility that an innocent person had been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof.

It is important to realise that in the High Court, the conclusion was a unanimous conclusion by all Judges.

The other two decisions also highlight the value of the independence of our legal system, particularly the High Court. Unfortunately, as costly as it is for people to go to the High Court, it restores faith in our system of justice that there is at least a way in which our whole justice system, for each State, is reviewed by the highest court in our land, namely the High Court.

I recommend to you a reading of each of those cases which gives us a great insight into the High Court’s approach and its independence.


Author: Peter Boyce, Sunshine Coast Solicitor at Butler McDermott law firm Nambour.



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