find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Bathurst calls for debate to build trust in courts

Bathurst calls for debate to build trust in courts

The new Chief Justice of NSW has warned of a “crisis of confidence” in Australia’s criminal justice system.

Speaking last night at the NSW Law Society’s opening of law term dinner, Justice Tom Bathurst QC said that trust in the system was eroding due to “misinformation that is propagated by sections of the media that prefer to inflate rather than inform, and politics that encourage fear mongering rather than educated debate”.

In a 2007 international survey of public confidence in the national criminal justice system, Australia ranked 27 out of 36 countries.

“The people of Estonia, Croatia, Russia and Slovakia all report a similar lack of confidence in their systems. However, in jurisdictions where we’re used to being compared, such as the UK, Canada and Ireland, public confidence is much higher,” Bathurst told those gathered at NSW Parliament House.

While nearly three quarters of Australians trust the police, less than one third trust the courts, and according to the survey, confidence in the system has steadily declined over the last 15 years.

Bathurst recognised there is ''little we can do about journalists trading on the demand for shock and scandal’’ and encouraged the legal profession to “improve the public’s knowledge” by engaging in debate at different levels of society - not only by contributing to government reviews.

“The Law Reform Commission is currently reviewing the Crime Sentencing Procedure Act … We shouldn’t forget that the discussions that occur in classrooms, on editorials and blogs, and even on talk back radio, are just as important in changing opinion and confidence in the criminal justice system,” said Bathurst.

“We will remain true to our profession if we participate in those debates and ensure that they are conducted on an informed and accurate footing.”

Bathurst, who was sworn in last June after more than 30 years as a barrister, also put forward a strong defence of the jury system, arguing it was an important way in which the community participates in the administration of justice.

A 2010 study showed that after viewing a trial and sentencing submissions, jurors gave more lenient sentences than the judge, and 90 per cent thought the judge’s sentence was within a fair range.
“Public perceptions are wrong, or at least they change dramatically when ignorance is replaced with information,” said Bathurst.

Bathurst also said misinformation had created the ''misguided perception that the legal community is soft on crime and out of touch with community information''.

“I don’t claim to be on the edge of pop culture. I don’t tweet, I don’t crump and I don’t do ‘LOL’,” he said. “[But] there are few people as much in touch with the realities faced by victims, accused and convicted as are judges of the criminal courts.”

Bathurst strongly rejected the abolition of jury trials, saying this could potentially further isolate and alienate the community from the operation of the legal system and further erode their faith in the system.

Juries need better explanations, more written directions and a chance to ask questions, he said.


Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Bathurst calls for debate to build trust in courts
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice, ALA, right-to-die law
Oct 24 2017
‘Right-to-die’ laws would be a relief for terminally ill: ALA
The passage of an assisted dying bill through the lower house of Victorian Parliament has been haile...
Oct 24 2017
Diversity top of agenda for future WA Law Society president
The advancement of diversity in the Western Australian legal profession will be one of the key items...
Oct 23 2017
How to fail well
The legal profession is due for an attitude adjustment when it comes to perceived failures, accordin...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...