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Aus must preserve legal protections despite real threat of terrorism, academic warns

A Victorian-based professor of law has warned that national counterterrorism measures should not erode the “essential tenets” of Australia’s legal system.

user iconMelissa Coade 04 December 2017 The Bar
Scales of Justice
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Days after the arrest of a man alleged to have been planning a New Year’s terrorist attack in Melbourne last week, Deakin University’s Professor Sandeep Gopalan has called for caution in the way that laws and institutions are adapted to respond to the national threat of terrorism.

“The risk that lone-wolf actors – inspired by a myriad of hateful ideologies – pose to innocent civilians will have to be tackled without sacrificing the core tenets of our legal system and its protections,” Professor Gopalan said.


The legal academic, who is also the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic Innovation at Deakin University, acknowledged that Australia has experienced a number of terrorism-related incidents and that the threat of a future event is a real possibility. Last Friday, Deakin Law School hosted a delegation of international experts to discuss the best way to achieve this balance.

“Our speakers include[d] lawyers who played lead roles in the Lindt Café siege inquest in Sydney, leading academics from the US and the UK with military/intelligence experience, and Australian academics who will present on recent research,” Professor Gopalan said.

The aim of the conference was to share learnings on the way that other countries have responded to terrorist events in their region. The conference also considered what institutional and legal reforms were suitable to ensure Australia was well-placed to respond to future attacks.

According to Victoria Police, 20-year-old Werribee man Ali Khalif Shire Ali was arrested by a special operations group on Monday, 27 November.

Police said they were interviewing the man about terrorism offences, specifically allegations that he was engaged in acts in preparation for a terrorist offence to be carried out on New Year’s Eve at Federation Square; and also collecting materials/documents to facilitate a terrorist act.

News Corp reports that defence lawyers for the Ali plan to receive a brief of evidence in relation to the terrorist charges in January next year. Ali’s committal mention is expected to take place in March, 2018.

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