Geoffrey Nettle an excellent appointment to the High Court

By all acGeoffrey Nettlecounts, the Abbott Government’s appointment of Geoffrey Nettle QC as the next High Court judge is a safe and sound choice. According to Attorney-General George Brandis:

I can tell you that, in consulting widely in relation to this appointment, Justice Nettle’s name came up time and time again as a particularly eminent candidate for appointment to the High Court.

Justice Nettle has a reputation for being a strong believer in precedent. I believe that this is a good thing. Activist judges tend to make decisions which push certain political agendas from the bench. In contrast, Justice Nettle wants to apply the law rather than make it.

Labor’s legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus has welcomed the appointment:

Justice Nettle has been prominent in the Victorian legal community for decades, appearing in many landmark cases as counsel

His appointment to the High Court of Australia will enable him to build on the service has given to the people of Victoria, to now serve the whole of our nation.

Nice to see some rare bipartisanship.


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freedom This blog has previously noted how there is little evidence that mandatory sentencing is an effective deterrent. Which is why it is disappointing that the Queensland government intends to introduce it for “one punch killers”:

ONE-PUNCH killers would face life imprisonment under proposed changes to Queensland laws. Continue reading

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Brett Peter Cowan found guilty of murder of Daniel Morcombe


Just hours ago, the Brisbane Supreme Court jury delivered its verdict in the Brett Peter Cowan trial, finding him guilty of murdering Daniel Morcombe in December 2003, as well as of interfering with his remains. Continue reading

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The perils of social media for twits

FarleyThe laws of defamation apply to social media as much as they apply anywhere else:

A FORMER high school student has been ordered to pay $105,000 to a teacher for writing defamatory remarks about her on social media in what is believed to be Australia’s first Twitter defamation case to go to trial.

Former Orange High School student Andrew Farley, 20, made “false allegations” about music teacher Christine Mickle on Twitter and Facebook in 2012, a year after he had left school.

Mr Farley, who had never been taught by Ms Mickle, seemed to bear a grudge against the 58-year-old based on a belief that she had something to do with his father, also a teacher, leaving the school, District Court Judge Michael Elkaim said in his ruling.

“There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate that belief,” Judge Elkaim said. “The effect of the publication on the plaintiff was devastating.’’

Anyone who frequents Twitter (or other social media) on a regular basis would know that false and defamatory assertions are often made about people. In some ways it’s a surprise that it’s taken this long for such a case to result in an award of damages in Australia.

Another twitter defamation case that may well go to trial is that of Liberal pollsters Mark Textor and Lyndon Crosby against former Labor MP Mike Kelly for a tweet Kelly published about push polling. The result will be interesting to see.

When people go on social media to rant, they would be well advised to be careful that they do not open themselves to liability for defamation. A right to rant is not the same as a right to defame.


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Paul de Jersey appointed Governor






Today’s big news is that Chief Justice Paul de Jersey has been anointed the 26th Governor of Queensland – an excellent appointment. The Queensland Law Society has graciously welcomed the appointment.

A few years ago, I once instructed Counsel (a barrister) before the Chief Justice. Back then  I was a young and inexperienced guy just trying to find his feet in the legal profession. The Chief Justice commented to Counsel that I was very well dressed. That I think was his way of being nice to a young fellow. It certainly made my day. To me, that incident shows that he is a magnanimous person. 

Unlike some appointments to such positions, the people of Queensland can be assured that  Paul de Jersey will be no political activist.

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Why do you need a lawyer?

What are the advantages of having a lawyer? Although it seems like a pretty obvious question, there are in fact a number of advantages. Continue reading

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Craig Thomson finally found guilty of defrauding HSU


It may have taken a long time, but justice has finally caught up with former Health Services National Secretary and federal Labor MP Craig Thomson, who was today found guilty of defrauding his former union. The verdict today is final confirmation that Thomson did indeed rort large sums of money during his time as head of the HSU.
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Dr Patel sues his own lawyers


The Courier Mail today reports that Former Bundaberg hospital surgeon Jayant Patel is suing his defence team for $884,000.

The article suggests that Dr Patel’s  case is that his solicitors and barrister were too inexperienced to properly defend him, and this inter alia resulted in them failing to obtain full particulars of the charges, a comprehensive signed written proof of evidence containing his responses to the charges or consider the need to retain expert evidence to rebut medical expert witnesses’s allegations regarding his competence to perform the operations.
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Simon Gittany sentenced to 26 years jail


Convicted murderer Simon Gittany was today sentenced to 26 years imprisonment for throwing his then fiance Lisa Harnum off their 15th floor high rise balcony. The minimum non-parole period handed down is 18 years. Of course, I have no doubt that Gittany committed the offence in question. Considering the atrocity of his crime, Justice Lucy McCallum’s sentence appears to have been appropriate. But it is interesting to compare the reported sentencing remarks with the legislative purposes of sentencing. 
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ABC Fact checker on mandatory sentencing

The ABC Fact checker has an interesting look at the evidence concerning mandatory sentencing in the wake of the NSW Government’s announcement of minimum jail terms for lethal assaults involving drugs or alcohol. Their conclusion is that there is little evidence in favour of it.

Mandatory sentencing is something that I have always felt uncomfortable with. The main problem is that it results in a court not being able to consider all the facts when sentencing, with the result that individuals convicted of the same offence will often if not usually receive exactly the penalty, even if the circumstances of the offender and the offence are quite different.

To my mind, the only possible justification for mandatory sentencing is that it deters offenders, thereby reducing crime levels. On the evidence, mandatory sentencing has a very limited effect (if any) on crime rates. It should therefore not be used widely, if at all.

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