Inquiry into national security legislation to continue
Australia’s major legal body has welcomed reports that an inquiry into the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004 will move forward.
The Fourth Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) Grant Donaldson SC will proceed with an inquiry into the act and will focus on the “Alan Johns matter” – in which the legislation was invoked during proceedings focused on the prosecution of a Commonwealth official for secrecy offences.
The Law Council of Australia (LCA) and president Dr Jacoba Brasch QC believes that the principle of open justice is particularly important in criminal proceedings and “goes to the heart of a person’s right to a fair trial, in that justice according to law must not only be done but must be seen to be done”.
“The application of the NSW Act in the ‘Alan Johns’ matter led to a person being charged, arraigned, pleading guilty, being sentenced and completing their sentence with minimal-to-no public knowledge of the details of the offending, due to consent orders being made under the NSI Act,” Dr Brasch said.
“The resumption of this inquiry will allow independent examination of whether the NSI Act should, as a matter of policy, be applied in this way, especially in the prosecution of official secrecy offences by current or former Commonwealth officials and others such as their legal advisors.”
LCA said it remains supportive of the reform options that were floated by the third INSLM when he originally initiated the inquiry in March 2020. It included considering a minimum requirement for at least some details of charges and orders to always be publicly disclosed.