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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.

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Simone Faunt


Peter Boyce


Peter has been practising as a Nambour Solicitor since 1977 and joined Butler McDermott Lawyers the same year.

With over 40 years practicing as a Sunshine Coast lawyer, Peter has extensive knowledge of various facets of law.

He has practised in all areas of litigation and has special interests in:

  • Criminal law
  • Civil and Commercial litigation
  • Retirement Village matters
  • Sports law
  • Resumption of land and compensation claims


Peter has specialised knowledge of and experience with resumption matters as a result of the Traveston Dam project, road corridors, Main Roads and water pipeline. He is renowned for his professional approach and is an experienced and determined advocate.

Brent King


Brent works as a litigation lawyer, providing litigation legal advice in relation to both civil and criminal law matters, including:
  • Defamation Claims
  • Contract and Debt Disputes
  • Building and Construction Disputes
  • Planning Matters
  • Criminal Law and Traffic Legal Matters
Having grown up on the Sunshine Coast and joining Butler McDermott after the completion of his studies, Brent appreciates the needs of our clients, and brings a particularly commercial approach to litigation. Brent is a member of the Queensland Law Society and the Sunshine Coast Law Association, and has litigated a wide variety of matters in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts.

Al Upton


After arriving at Butler McDermott Lawyers in 2016, Al quickly progressed to running our Wills and Estates section and has successfully litigated disputes in the Supreme and District Courts of Queensland in the early stages of his career.

In the years that followed Al has now moved to assist our clients with commercial and property matters having achieved positive outcomes in that area as well as general litigation. Al’s experience has him uniquely placed to provide quality advice in the areas of property, commercial, wills and estates and general litigation.

Al is involved in giving back to the community, sitting on the board for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and Sundale Community Foundation. He otherwise became a director of Butler McDermott Lawyers in November 2021.