THE HONOURABLE Justice BT Sully departed from the New South Wales Supreme Court with a damning speech in which he said proposals for law reform these days usually start with people who are single issue obsessives or unstable.
In response to a farewell speech from president of the NSW Bar Association, Michael Slattery QC, Justice Sully took aim at four of the trends he says he has witnessed during his tenure.
They include “an ever-widening gap in public understanding of our constitutional history”; approaches to law reform; bureaucratisation of the courts and the intrusion of the media.
Justice Sully said Australians had a poor understanding of constitutional history and its significance in ensuring continuity within the legal system. He suggested that members of the Bar would do well to brush up on their constitutional knowledge, which many students may also benefit from.
“The Bar is celebrated, among other things, for the education programs that it has in place. May I suggest, Mr President, that a properly structured course in those basic processes and events of constitutional history would not go amiss. That is a field, if ever there was one, in which the contemporary Bar can and should be setting the example, indeed the pace,” he said.
On law reform, Justice Sully said: “Proposals for law reform these days normally start with people who are single issue obsessives; or people who have an unwholesome ambition for personal power and aggrandisement; or people who, to speak frankly, are plainly, not to say floridly, unstable.”
He went on to say: “One looks at the efforts, to choose a neutral word, of current law reform and one wonders, really, whether they have not taken their motto from the saying famously attributed to Attila the Hun: ‘That the grass never grew again where the hooves of his horse had once trodden’.”