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Foreign evidence rules not fair

Foreign evidence rules not fair

GUANTANAMO BAY styled rules to change Australia's foreign evidence laws have been

GUANTANAMO BAY styled rules to change Australia's foreign evidence laws have been proposed claim the NSW Council for Civil Liberties in their to submissions to the Senate Standing Committee on Friday.

Stephen Blanks, secretary for the NSW Council of Liberties, said the amendments would adopt a general test for foreign business documents, placing the onus on a defendant in criminal proceedings to disprove that a document was reliable.

"The abolition of normal rules of evidence and the imposition of that burden on the defendant fundamentally alters the rules applicable to trials and are not fair rules," he told Lawyers Weekly.

"They are modelled on the type of rules which applied in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay where anything which appeared to be relevant could be admitted into evidence and the burden was on the defendant to show why it shouldn't be admitted.

"I think the whole word recognises that those rules are unfair and that if those commissions had proceeded, any convictions would not have credibility because of the way evidence could be used unfairly to obtain convictions."

The changes would be applicable to Commonwealth criminal cases such as money laundering, customs offences, cyber crime, copyright infringements and importation of prohibited substances.

Blanks said the DPP had made submissions that material that was not in it's proper form had resulted in prosecutions not going ahead.

"So the suspicion is that rather than fix up the problems with its evidence to make it admissible, the easier option is to just change the laws, and abolish the rules of evidence and it's a tactic we see too often from prosecutors," he said.

The Senate Committee's report is expected to be released on the 6 March.

- Sarah Sharples

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