IN AN interview with Lawyers Weekly, Philip Ruddock has defended comments he made following court decisions to bail terrorism suspects.
The comments were made following Brisbane magistrate Jacqui Payne’s decision to grant bail to terrorism suspect Mohamed Haneef, and a Melbourne court’s decision to bail two men charged with supplying funds to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.
Ruddock told reporters:
“If our understanding of the way in which the presumption against bail should operate ... is misunderstood, we will look at whether or not further amendments are required.
“I don’t wish to reflect upon decisions of judicial officers ... but they help us to understand how the law is being interpreted.
“If, on appeal, those decisions were upheld, the government might well want to give the courts some further advice as to how these issues ought to be addressed.”
Ruddock told Lawyers Weekly that the comments were not an attack on judicial independence, saying review of legislation is part of his role as Attorney-General.
“It is perfectly proper and appropriate and always the role of the Attorney-General in relation to each station for which he or she is responsible, to propose amendments,” he said.
“I haven’t criticised the judicial officer who came to the decision but what I have said is given the decision that was taken, we may want to address again the legislation which applies in this area.
“That’s not critical of the judiciary or the judicial office but what it is saying is that the Commonwealth can properly exercise its legislative function in the same way as the courts properly exercise the judicial function.
“The decisions made by judicial officers are made on the basis of legislation and if the parliament doesn’t like the decision reached, you aren’t being critical of the judge or magistrate in simply saying that the parliament may want to address the law again. I would be surprised if any lawyer worth his salt would fail to understand that distinction,” Ruddock said.
The charges against Haneef were dropped this afternoon and the Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said he would be removed from immigration detention and allowed to return home, pending further investigations.