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.Read more
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.”Read more
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.
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.”Read more
4 April 2019
NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) has urged the Iranian authorities to release Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer.
Originally arrested in June last year, Sotoudeh has been sentenced to 38 years imprisonment and 148 lashes. The allegations against her include “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” membership in various human rights groups, “disturbing public peace and order” and “publishing falsehoods with the intent to disturb public opinion.” Amnesty International has adopted her as a prisoner of conscience.Read more
Sacrificing Civil Liberties to Counter Terrorism: Where Will it End?
2018 John Marsden Lecture, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, 22 November 2018
My talk relates to a long-standing problem:
how to protect the community from terrorism, while at the same time respecting fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial
This problem has become especially acute in recent times. Governments around the world have responded to the tragic events of September 11, the London 2005 bombings and other attacks by enacting laws that confer extraordinary powers upon governments and their agencies. Such laws may be directed to protecting the community, but they are in the risk of undermining the very freedoms we are seeking to protect from terrorism.
George Marsden delivering the 2018 John Marsden Lecture.Read more
3 April 2019
CQX18 is the boat identification of an Iranian man, who applied for a visa in March 2018. This request was rejected, and that decision was reaffirmed in April. He appealed that decision in the Federal Circuit Court in July 2018. Judge Street heard the Iranian man’s appeal that day. Judge Street ruled against him, and ordered him to pay the Minister’s costs of $7328. Judge Street delivered his ruling orally. This presented a significant challenge to the Iranian man. He was not in the courtroom, but connected by video link from Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre.Read more
1 April 2019
After upholding an application by the NSW Police Commissioner to prohibit a Stop Adani protest scheduled to take place in Newtown in February, the NSW Supreme Court rejected an application by the Police Commissioner that the organizer of the protest pay his legal costs for going to Court.
The Stop Adani protest was intended to proceed along King St, Newtown on 17 February, the same day as Fair Day organized by Mardi Gras in nearby Victoria Park. The Court considered that the level of disruption which would be caused by closing King St for the duration of the Stop Adani protest on the same day as Fair Day justified the making of a prohibition order.Read more
26 March 2019
The High Court of Australia has refused to hear an appeal from the NSW Attorney-General in relation to trying the man suspected of murdering three Aboriginal children in Bowraville. The saga of the Bowraville murders has lasted for almost 30 years, beginning with the deaths of the children over a period of five months from 1990 to 1991. The disappearances were originally treated with minimal concern by the police, who suggested the children had gone “walkabout”. The police failure to gather evidence in the crucial early period doomed the attempt to gain justice for the children. In 1994, a man was tried for the murder of one of the children, Clinton Speedy-Duroux. He was acquitted.
According to Professor Larissa Behrendt, the police began to rebuild their credibility with the local Aboriginal community by appointing detective inspector Gary Jubelin to investigate the case. He gathered new evidence to try the same suspect, and presented it before a coronial inquest in 2004. It was regarded as compelling, and this led to a new trial of the suspect, this time for the murder of one of the other children, Evelyn Greenup. Once again, the man was acquitted. The prosecution argued for admitting the new evidence in relation to the deaths of the other children, but this submission was rejected.Read more
21 March 2019
On 13 March, the High Court of Australia handed down what is widely considered one of the most significant cases on native title since the famous Mabo 2. The case considered the rights of the Ngaliwurru and Nungalli peoples to compensation in relation to their traditional lands in the Northern Territory.
The basic principle of native title is that where Aboriginal people can show that they have traditionally used land in a particular way, they have acquired a kind of right to that land to continue their usage. That right is called native title. Native title can be extinguished in various ways. An example of extinguishment is what happened in Timber Creek. Between 1980 and 1996, the Northern Territory government engaged in 53 acts, such as granting tenure to land, and constructing public works. These extinguishing acts occurred over 127 hectares, to which Aboriginal people up to that point had exercised their native title.Read more