Mr O’Connell represented himself at the proceedings, after firing his lawyer. During the trial he refused to acknowledge District Court Judge Wisbey, instead bowing to the jury. During the trial he referred to the proceedings as a ‘kangaroo court’ and demanded that Justice Wisbey face treason charges.
Racial vilification legislation was first introduced into Western Australia in 1990 and was amended in 2004. Unlike many other Australian jurisdictions Western Australia does not have civil remedies for racial vilification. This means that the only option open to victims of racial vilification is to pursue criminal charges.
One of the interesting characteristics of this trial was that Mr O’Connell was charged with racial vilification for his comments relating to Jews, a group which is usually regarded as religious rather than racial in nature. WA does not have any legislation dealing with religious vilification. At the time the racial vilification laws were strengthened in 2004 religious vilification legislation was considered but ultimately rejected by the government before it was put before parliament.
RENAE BARKER is a PhD law student at University of Western Australia.