New South Wales lawyers are riled by the Government’s plans to limit the “right to silence” in the state.
The Law Society of NSW, which represents the state’s lawyers, says the proposed modification of the right to remain silent when arrested is an attack on fundamental rights.
President of the professional body, Justin Dowd, said this fundamental part of the criminal justice system should only be changed after rigorous consultation.
“It is an essential tenet of the criminal justice system that the prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. It is not the responsibility of the accused to prove his or her innocence,” Dowd said
The New South Wales Premier says defendants are abusing the right. His conservative Government hopes to change the Evidence Act to allow juries to draw negative inferences if a defendant refuses to answer police questions.
The Police Association said the Premier’s idea is a good one that's improved the justice system in the UK.
Dowd said the Government’s reference to the UK system is disingenuous.
“In a 2000 report, this issue was considered in detail by the NSW Law Reform Commission and the introduction of a system similar to that in the UK was rejected.
“In the UK, a government funded duty solicitor scheme is provided to assist an accused person when taken into custody. This balance does not exist in NSW and would require a significant increase in Legal Aid funding,” Dowd said.