: DUAO - Vol 40(3)

DUAO - 2015 - Vol 40(3)

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Developments around the country

DownUnderAllOver is a round-up of legal news from both State and federal jurisdictions, and contains topical articles and short pieces from Alternative Law Journal committees around the country.

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NSW trials online court for civil cases

Elyse Methven
New South Wales

The NSW government will start trialling an online court in the final quarter of 2015. A pilot of the online court will cover civil cases in the general division of the Sydney Downing Centre Local Court.

The court will allow parties to manage cases at a preliminary stage, without having to be physically present in a courtroom. Lawyers will be able to employ the online court’s services to seek preliminary orders online, such as an adjournment or an order that documents be filed by a certain date.

An important difference to non-online court proceedings is that the 28-day waiting period before the first preliminary hearing will not apply to online proceedings. Additionally, parties will be able to start making requests immediately.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 212

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Paperless arrests

Steven Castan
Northern Territory

Paperless arrests have come under criticism and calls for their scrapping have intensified after a Northern Territory coroner declared them ‘manifestly unfair’ and likely to cause more Aboriginal deaths in custody.

The state coroner also made the recommendation that the laws be repealed during his investigation into the death in custody of Kumanjayi Langdon a 59-year-old man from Yuendumu in Central Australia who died of heart failure while in the Darwin Police watch house in May 2015. Mr Langdon was detained pursuant to a paperless arrest on suspicion of drinking alcohol. He died from heart failure three hours after being taken into custody.

Paperless arrests were introduced by the Northern Territory government in December 2014 and enable police to detain people for several hours without arresting them, charging them or filling out any paperwork. The powers are set out in Section 133AB of the Police Administration Act (NT) and allow the police to detain people for up to four hours or longer if the person is suspected of committing a minor offence such as offensive behaviour in public or offences under the liquor regulations. The person detained does not have the right to seek legal advice while in custody.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 212

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Appointments and resignations

Allan Ardill
Queensland

With the resignation of Chief Justice Carmody on 1 July, after serving less than a year, the controversy surrounding his office is likely to end. Justice Carmody will continue his standing as a judge of the Supreme Court to serve as a judicial member of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath has promised to consult ‘widely’ before naming a permanent replacement. She will also appoint a mediator to consult with Supreme Court judges to repair the damage around this controversy.

Even though the Parliamentary Committee for the Crime and Corruption Commission is unable to agree on its own chairperson, it has managed to appoint a new CCC Chair of Commissioners, Alan MacSporran QC. MacSporran is a former crown prosecutor in the Queensland office of the federal Director of Public Prosecutions and respected barrister having assisted with several inquiries, such as the inquest into the Childers backpacker fire (2006), the equine influenza inquiry (2007-2009) and the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry (2011-2012). The appointment of the remaining commissioners and the CEO will follow MacSporran’s commencement on 1 September 2015.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 212

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A human rights law for Queensland

James Farrell
Queensland

Queensland’s electoral and parliamentary systems make the state uniquely exposed to the misuse of government power. A Human Rights Act would improve the system of government in Queensland and protect the rights of all Queenslanders.

When independent MP (and now speaker) Peter Wellington supported the Labor Party to form government in February, Labor agreed to seek advice from the Department of Justice and Attorney General ‘regarding the issues related to a possible bill of rights in Queensland’. Labor agreed to publish this advice to allow for public discussion on the matter.

Since that time a number of community organisations and individuals have met with members of the Queensland government (including the Attorney General) to talk to them about the need for a Human Rights Act and to request that a community consultation be held about the issue.

In coming months, it’s likely that the Queensland government will engage in some community conversations about the need for a Human Rights Act. Readers of the Alternative Law Journal might like to engage in that conversation.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 213

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Coordinating community legal information and publications

James Farrell
Queensland

Queensland’s legal assistance services provide information to the community about their rights and responsibilities. This ‘community legal education’ can be undertaken face-to-face (one-on-one or to groups), or through the provision of information and publications.

There are some concerns expressed (generally from government funders) that there is unnecessary duplication of information and publications by legal assistance services (Legal Aid, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, and Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services).

Legal assistance services have produced 422 separate publications in recent years, and there is no meaningful duplication in any of these materials. There are valid reasons explaining some limited duplication in some materials, including the specific needs of target audiences, differences in access to services etc.

Despite the lack of duplication and the existing coordination and collaboration, Queensland legal assistance services do continually work to improve their processes. This project examined processes in other jurisdictions to coordinate the development of legal information and publications, and existing mechanisms in Queensland. QAILS found that Queensland’s legal assistance services’ collaborative and coordinated approach ensure limited duplication without sensible justification, but there is the opportunity to improve.

The draft report is available at: — http://www.qails.org.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=272.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 213

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