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Cowdery's "wish list" seeks end to legal wars

Cowdery's "wish list" seeks end to legal wars

The conduct of all prosecutions would be transferred to the DPP, drug possession decriminalised and the war on "abstract nouns such as 'terrorism'" ended if the NSW Director of Public…

The conduct of all prosecutions would be transferred to the DPP, drug possession decriminalised and the war on "abstract nouns such as 'terrorism'" ended if the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery had his way.

Cowdery unveiled his frank "wish list" at The Rule of Law Institute of Australia conference over the weekend, declaring that if he could "wave a legislative wand", he would make some significant changes to the criminal justice system.

With a list covering a Bail Act that actually allowed the interests of the accused to be taken into account as well abolishing standard non-parole periods, Cowdery added that he would transfer the conduct of all prosecutions to the DPP.

"In my view it is inappropriate to have the principal investigators, the police, conducting prosecutions," Cowdery said.

"Public acceptance of the prosecution process is enhanced by having an independent prosecutor in all cases, one who is an officer of the court and not subject to the same hierarchical regime as the investigators.

"My Office came close to taking on this responsibility in 2000 - it is time for the question to be re-addressed."

Cowdery said that he would also decriminalise drug possession, drug use and small-scale trafficking to instead treat drugs as "the health and social problems that they are".

He would increase the number of medically supervised injecting centres and Drug Courts - both programs which he believes have been hugely successful.

"Our present approach to illicit drugs, after decades of trying, is ineffective, wasteful and inconsiderate of the human rights of those concerned," he said.

Cowdery added that rather than addressing the symptoms of terrorism, he would instead tackle the underlying social and political conditions that give rise to it - and rely on existing and traditional laws to deal with terrorist crimes.

Finally, Cowdery said he would enact a national charter of rights.

In defining what he labeled as the "just rule of law", Cowdery added that there must be some kind of mechanism for ensuring that the law always reasonably remains in accordance with general social values and informed public opinion.

"The difficulty, of course, is in reflecting informed public opinion and general social values, not the opinions and values of noisy elements of the society that may not or should not be held generally," he said. "Tabloid headlines and talkback radio are not a sound basis on which to fashion laws."

But Cowdery added that lawmaking in modern times is at odds with such requirements, and there are plenty of examples where lawmakers have taken drafting instructions after certain rants in the tabloid media.

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