19 April 2011

Judicial Reform.

Just about every one of us can immediately think of a court case where we think it got “out of control”. Recently in Central Queensland there were 2 cases which highlight the need for massive judicial reform. One was a case of assault, a “glassing”. The second around the same time was a case where a pensioner was convicted for not voting in the last State election.

In the glassing case of 6 May 2010, (and in the interests of detail the offender was an aboriginal male and the victim a white man), the offender got off with a non-custodial sentence. 

The media coverage showed horrendous lacerations to the face of the victim and he also suffered significant emotional and mental harm adding to the seriousness of the crime (the victim was walking his dog by himself past a suburban hotel in Rockhampton when the offender who had been drinking in company attacked him seemingly without warning with a beer glass ). The security video shown in the media is quite clear.

Presiding magistrate Cameron Press, (who incidentally on his appointment to the bench threatened to deal very severely with offenders in violent street crime), sentenced the offender in September 2010 to 10 months imprisonment with immediate parole. This caused public outcry and in October 2010 police prosecutors lodged an appeal against the “manifestly inadequate sentence”.

In March 2011 His Honour Judge Brian Devereaux of the District Court re-sentenced the offender on appeal to the stiffer penalty of 18 months imprisonment with immediate parole. Obviously a worthwhile exercise all round.

Now compare this with the case of a pensioner before the same judge in the same month. His “crime” - failing to vote. The Electoral Commission prosecuted the pensioner in 2010 (a white man) for ”Failing to Vote without a Valid and Sufficient Excuse” and he was fined $921, which included court costs. The pensioner appealed this conviction and in an appeal in March 2011 Judge Devereaux (the same judge as in the glassing case appeal) did not overturn the original conviction. He did however excuse the pensioner of further costs of court, which saved him from further expenses of $1800.

So there you have it. Attack an innocent passer-by with a beer glass, miss his jugular vein by millimetres, hospitalise him and put tremendous emotional and mental strain on him and walk without imprisonment or even a fine. Fail to vote and feel the heat.

Local Rockhampton Labor state member Robert Schwarten who retires next election and is therefore yesterday’s man, is on public record as refusing even debate the need for judicial reform as he sees this as the “slippery slope to fascism and communism”. According to him the judiciary must remain independent even with the above outcomes. Not withstanding that his government has trade ties to communist China and Vietnam we have to ask: what slippery slope are we already on?

Could it be that the penalties associated with not voting are tied to the fact that the major parties get a monetary kick back from the public purse for every vote they attract. Surely not?

You can probably guess why the glassing offender walked free.

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