A controversial Local Court judgment in Western Australia in relation to indecent assault has been upheld by the Western Australia Supreme Court. The judgment turned on an agreed set of facts. After a charity wheelchair basketball event, members of the police team prepared to take a group photo. One of the men in the photo said something like “don’t take this the wrong way”, and as the photo was about to be taken, pinched a woman on the side of her right buttock. The woman accepted that this action was intended to be “in some way humorous" and was done "in order to provoke a startled reaction”.
It was agreed that there was an unlawful assault, however the prosecution needed to also show the assault was indecent. Indecent assault carries up to 5 years imprisonment, and a fine of $24,000. For an assault to be indecent, it must have a sexual connotation, and offend against prevailing contemporary community standards of decency and propriety. The Magistrate made a series of findings, concluding that touching a person’s bottom was not necessarily or inherently indecent and the pinch in this case was an example of unlawful but not indecent touching.
On Thursday 11 April 2019, Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange was arrested by British police after the Ecuadorian embassy withdrew Assange’s asylum. Assange is currently facing two charges – one concerns failing to surrender to the British courts in 2012. The other charge is at the behest of the United States government, which is seeking to extradite him in relation to an alleged conspiracy between Assange and Chelsea Manning over the leaking of secret documents in 2010.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties President, Pauline Wright, said “No matter what our personal views of Julian Assange may be, there are important matters of principle at stake that go beyond the personalities involved. We must condemn the decision of the United States to seek the extradition and prosecution of a non-citizen who published truthful information about US war crimes. This has clear implications for the protection of whistle-blowers into the future and the independence of the press.” She said “What is to stop more authoritarian regimes claiming a similar right to prosecute Australians in the future, including journalists exposing war crimes or corruption? The Australian government should urge the United Kingdom to block Assange’s extradition to the United States.”
High Court protects women’s safe access to abortion clinics
Today the High Court of Australia made a decision which maintains greatly needed legal protections for women seeking reproductive health care - including abortion- in Tasmania and Victoria. NSWCCL welcomes this unanimous upholding of the current laws in these states.
The provisions, which provide these protections within a 150-metre safe access zone, had been challenged by anti - abortion campaigners who argued they infringed their right to free speech and political protest.
In rejecting this line of argument, the High Court found that any impediment to free speech or political protest caused by its prohibition within this limited 150 metre zone was ‘negligible’.
This accords with the position NSWCCL took in supporting the passage of the NSW Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics legislation in 2018. We took this position as an organisation which has defended civil liberties for over 50 years and approaches any law which limits free speech or political freedom with great caution. We considered the NSW legislation to be necessary and reasonable.
The High Court decision today provides a very welcome level of certainty as to the constitutionality of the NSW safe access zone provisions.
The decision not only provides clarity as to the constitutionality of existing provisions it also provides a context which should facilitate the extension of these much-needed legal protections to women in Western Australia and South Australia.
We extend our thanks to the Human Rights Law Centre and the Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic for their submissions to the High Court in defence of the safe access zones.
In NSW we must now turn our attention to the achievement of abortion law reform in this term of government.
NSWCCL Public Statement on HC decision
5 April 2019
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) condemns political interference in the ABC, in the wake of a Senate Report finding political interference in the ABC by the government.
On 1 April, on the eve of the Federal Budget, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications published its report on “The allegations of political interference in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)”. The committee found that “political interference or the prospect of political interference, and all that that entails, is experienced to varying degrees throughout the ABC.” It also found that “the Coalition Government has been complicit in the events of 2018 and beyond, by using funding as a lever to exert political influence in the ABC.”
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