14 Apr 2017
ATTORNEY-GENERAL John Rau’s plan to force accused criminals to reveal key details of their case before trial is set to be dealt a fatal blow as the Opposition and crossbenchers join forces to block it. It follows a concerted campaign by the Law Society, the Bar Association and top counsel against changes within the Government’s indictable offences reform package, which they said would undermine justice. The Advertiser understands Mr Rau, right, has been left scrambling after a surprise coalition led by Liberal backbencher Andrew McLachlan banded together to scrap the most controversial elements. The Greens and Nick Xenophon Team MLC John Darley said they intended to support the Opposition’s amendments, which drop the requirement for an accused person to reveal specific details of their defence before going to trial. Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent was also understood to be considering support.
“In our society, we hold the belief that individuals are decent and law-abiding until proven otherwise,” Mr McLachlan said. “The prosecution must prove their case. The defendant does not have to help them. That’s how our court system works.” Mr Rau said the purpose of the reforms was to make the justice system more efficient, which would ease the burden on victims and reduce court backlogs. He said the earlier disclosures of case specifics would facilitate earlier guilty pleas and support negotiations with the prosecution. “The Government plans to progress the Bill in its current form and will continue briefings and negotiations with the crossbench,” Mr Rau told The Advertiser yesterday.
The Bill also seeks to reduce delays by restricting the sub poenaing of prosecution documents but the Greens, with the support of the Opposition, plan to change this to ensure the defence could ac cess the information to help with their case any time before trial. Greens MLC Mark Parnell said that this was a “major glitch” in the proposal.
Mr McLachlan said the Attorney-Gen eral appeared to believe the delays in the criminal justice system were all the fault of the defence counsel. He said there was no evidence the changes would produce better outcomes than if the Government provided more adequate funding to the Director of Public Prosecutions. “Fair trial rights should always prevail over the needs of the Treasury for efficiency and cost savings,” he said. “I can still remember my early days as a young lawyer defending unfortunate individuals who found themselves in difficult circumstances. “When you stand alongside the defendant, you realise the extent of the resources available to the state and how little is provided to the defendant. “This Government has sought to worship at the altar of the god of efficiency but to placate this golden calf, it is willing to sacrifice the rights of the individual, rights that are important to all of us in the community.”