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Debacle after Bruce Lehrmann charges dropped

Posted on Categories Criminal law, Defamation, Legal profession Tags , , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Debacle after Bruce Lehrmann charges dropped

 

Bruce Lehrmann, the former parliamentary political staffer who was accused of raping a colleague named Brittany Higgins at Parliament House has had all charges dropped again him.

This occurred after the trial had to be postponed because Lisa Wilkinson gave a speech at The Logie Awards, and when the trial finally took place, the jury had to be discharged because of juror misconduct.

Aftermath

It has since been revealed that the most senior police officer on the Brittany Higgins case, ACT Police Manager of Criminal Investigations, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller believed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Bruce Lehrmann but could not stop the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions from proceeding because “there is too much political interference”.

Lehrmann is reportedly contemplating civil action for alleged defamation and unfair dismissal after the charges were dropped, including against the ABC.

Sydney defamation specialist Mark O’Brien is working with  Lehrmann in consideration of legal action. Furthermore, a letter to the trial judge from Channel 10 boss Beverley McGarvey, obtained by The Australian, reveals Wilkinson disputes claims by DPP Director Shane Drumgold SC that he had warned her that her planned Logies speech could cause a substantial delay in the trial.

Janet Albrechtsen is absolutely scathing:

The decision by ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold to withdraw the sexual assault charge against Bruce Lehrmann due to the mental health of Brittany Higgins is too late and too little.

In that order. Too late because the DPP should have decided not to prosecute Lehrmann in the first place. Too little because Drumgold should have made that earlier decision for two reasons: the inconsistency and lack of evidence, and the mental health of Higgins.

After all, as revealed on Saturday by The Weekend Australian, the most senior Australian Federal Police officers involved in the investigation gave precisely those reasons in a report and in a conversation with the DPP explaining their view there should never have been a prosecution at all…

The aborted trial confirmed the serious inconsistencies in Higgins’s evidence. These included claims about what she did with the dress she wore the night of the alleged rape; about whether she or her boyfriend, David Sharaz, forwarded a dossier about the allegation to journalists before she went to police; inconsistent evidence about bruises to her leg and about the fact she had deleted material from her phone, including texts she sent to a Parliament House security guard the morning after the alleged rape. In the end, there was no forensic evidence of a rape. There was no objective evidence that sex happened, consensual or otherwise.

The AFP material and the way the case proceeded raise serious questions about the DPP’s judgment. Not merely that Drumgold began this case against strong police advice in the first place but about the fact that even now, in his Friday statement, his aim seemed to be to protect Higgins from further public scrutiny, which invariably includes criticism. Drumgold’s focus on the bravery of Higgins, when there has been no finding of guilt, is especially troubling. Higgins’s allegation remains just that – an allegation.

Most recently, a leading Canberra criminal lawyer has called for the resignation of Drumgold SC over the affair. Peter Woodhouse, the managing partner of Aulich Lawyers, said an investigation by the Integrity Commission was needed after the revelations by that police believed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Lehrmann, but could not stop the DPP from doing so because “there is too much political interference”.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, this criminal matter was politicised from the start, with Higgins going to the media first and the police second. Political considerations such as the #metoo trend that began about 3 years ago thereafter predominated, and the presumption of innocence was routinely trashed by media figures.

Ultimately, the politicisation of this case only caused harm to all involved. The effect that the trial has had on Higgins’ mental health has been so detrimental that the DPP has discontinued the charges for fear of her life, when perhaps the matter should not have proceeded to charges in the first place. The trial did not take place in a timely way because of the adverse pre-trial publicity against Lehrmann, with the tenor of many in the media that he was guilty. Lisa Wilkinson was fortunate not to be prosecuted for her self-indulgent Logies speech which implied just that. Lehrmann’s reputation and career has been ruined, when we don’t know whether or not he committed a serious crime.  The reputation of the ACT DPP has also been trashed. And there’s also the expenditure of significant public resources for no real result. Proof that politics and legal processes don’t mix.

What a mess.

Kristina Keneally’s son pleads not guilty to fabricating evidence

Posted on Categories Criminal law Tags , , , , 2 Comments on Kristina Keneally’s son pleads not guilty to fabricating evidence

Last month, Constable Daniel Keneally was charged with fabricating evidence. This charge arose from Keneally submitting a report of a man named Luke Moore threatening to kill a police officer, which resulted in Moore being refused bail and spending time in jail for three weeks.

Moore had apparently recorded his discussion with Keneally jnr, and it is alleged that recording showed that Keneally’s report was false.

A Sydney court has been informed Constable Daniel Keneally will contest the charge.

Constable Daniel Keneally is the son of former NSW Premier and federal Senator Kristina Keneally.

When is a Judge disqualified for bias?

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Legal advice

A decision-maker being impartial is one of the core requirements of natural justice.

In the 19th century, Lord Campbell in Dimes [1852] EngR 789 said that “no man is to be a judge in his own cause”.

As a majority of the High Court noted in Ebner v The Official Trustee in Bankruptcy [2000] HCA 63:

“Fundamental to the common law system of adversarial trial is that it is conducted by an independent and impartial tribunal. Perhaps the deepest historical roots of this principle can be traced to Magna Carta (with its declaration that right and justice shall not be sold)”.

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Queensland forensic lab boss Cathie Allen accused of lying

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The commission of inquiry into QLD’s lab scandal has heard Managing scientist of Queensland Health’s Forensic and Scientific Services Cathie Allen recommended amplification of low-level DNA samples which could have detected more serious criminals, but which would cost Queensland Health an estimated $20,000 less and generate less workload for lab staff.
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Chief Justice prohibits Graeme Page KC from practicing as a barrister

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Former barrister Graeme Page’s career may have ended today after the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland ordered an injunction restraining him from engaging in legal practice.

The Legal Services Commission had brought an application in the Supreme Court just last Friday. This occurred after it became aware last week that, despite not holding a practising certificate, Page appeared in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia on a number of occasions between September 2022 and October 2022 when he was not entitled to do so.
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Son of Kristina Keneally charged with fabricating evidence

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Kristina Keneally is a former Premier of NSW and Labor federal Senator.

Earlier this year, she failed to win the federal seat of Fowler from her residence situated at Scotland Island, a water-borne community situated in an estuary called Pittwater, part of Broken Bay in northern Sydney, New South Wales, and lost to local Vietnamese immigrant Dai Le.
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The question of reasonable foreseeability of injury

Posted on Categories Personal Injury Tags , , , 2 Comments on The question of reasonable foreseeability of injury
Introduction

It is a well-established principle in the law of negligence that a defendant should only have to take precautions against reasonably foreseeable risks to others. Reasonable foreseeability can be contrasted with risks that are “far fetched or fanciful”.

The 2013 Queensland Court of Appeal cases of Heywood v Commercial Electrical Pty Ltd [2013] QCA 270 and Suncorp Staff Pty Ltd v Larkin [2013] QCA 281 are useful reminders of the centrality of the concept of reasonable foreseeability of risk in negligence cases against employers.
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