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DownUnderAllOver

DownUnderAllOver

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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Suspended sentences (again)

Bronwyn Naylor
Victoria

As the effect of the change of government in Victoria plays itself out, the Sentencing Amendment Act 2010 has been altered by the passage of the Sentencing Further Amendment Act 2011, with some of the alterations taking effect from 1 May 2011. This includes the removal of the option of suspended prison sentences for ‘serious’ and ‘significant’ offences. Serious offences include all offences that can only be dealt with in the County or Supreme Courts.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 135

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Extensive changes to jury selection and eligibility in Western Australia

Victoria Williams
Western Australia

On 14 April 2011 the West Australian Parliament passed the Juries Legislation Amendment Act 2011 (WA) (‘the Act’). The Act received Royal Assent on 2 May 2011 and it is anticipated that the main provisions of the Act will begin to commence operation from July 2011. According to the Attorney General’s media statement on 15 April 2011, the new legislation will ‘bring Western Australia’s jury system into the 21st century’.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 136

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Racial Vilification Conviction

Renae Barker
Western Australia

On 31 January 2011 Brendan Lee O’Connell became the first person sentenced under Western Australia’s anti-vilification laws. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment after being found guilty of six charges of racial vilification. In 2009 Mr O’Connell posted footage of himself on the internet showing him insulting a young Jewish man and of a speech filmed outside the Bell Tower in Perth. The offences also related to an altercation between Mr O’Connell and two young Jewish men at a rally outside an IGA supermarket in south Perth. The protest was being conducted by the group ‘Friends of Palestine’ against the sale of oranges from Israel at the IGA store. Members of the Australian Union of Students attended the protests leading to the altercation.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 136

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HRC calls for immediate end to mandatory immigration detention

Phil Lynch
Human Rights
On 14 December 2010, the Australian Human Rights Commission released a statement on the policy and practice of mandatory immigration detention following a visit to immigration detention facilities in Darwin which house 'high numbers of families with children and unaccompanied minors' for extended periods of time.

In her statement, Commission President Catherine Branson QC said she was concerned about the impacts prolonged detention were having on the health, education and psychological needs of children.

Ms Branson said the Commission continued to have serious concerns about Australia's mandatory immigration detention system, in particular, the increasing length of time people were spending in immigration detention and the impacts of prolonged and indefinite detention on people's mental health.

'The Commission met with a number of people in detention, including children, who had experienced significant trauma in their home country or who had attempted self-harm while in detention,' Ms Branson said.

'The Commission continues to call on the Australian Government to reconsider the mandatory detention system. People should only be held in immigration detention if there is a risk that justifies detaining them, she said. 'If no such risk exists, they should be allowed to reside in community-based alternatives to detention while their refugee claims are assessed.'

The Commission's full statement is at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/immigration/idc2010_darwin.html

(2011) 36(1) AltLJ 60

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UN Committee Against Torture gives Australia a ‘Please Explain’

Phil Lynch
Human Rights
In December 2010, the UN Committee Against Torture issued a 'List of Issues Prior to Reporting' for Australia. The purpose of this List is to outline those issues which the Committee would like Australia to address and respond to in its next periodic report to the Committee, due in 2012.

The issues on which the Committee specifically seeks information and responses from Australia include:

  •  information regarding the legal entrenchment of human rights in Australia, including through a Human Rights Act and constitutional recognition of Indigenous people;
  •  the human rights compatibility and impacts of counter-terrorism legislation, including in relation to the powers of ASIO and the Australian Federal Police;
  •  mechanisms for monitoring and oversight of places of detention, including prisons;
  •  the right to health and access to adequate health care for detainees, including prisoners and persons detained in immigration facilities;
  •  trafficking of women and children;
  •  violence against women;
  •  the operation and impact of laws that criminalise homelessness and poverty;
  •  complementary protection and the prohibition against refoulement (sending asylum seekers back to the country from which they seek refuge);
  •  the operation and impact of Australia's refugee and asylum seeker policies, including in relation to mandatory detention, offshore processing, and the detention of families and children;
  •  the over-representation of Indigenous people and people with mental illness in the criminal justice and prison systems;
  •  Australia's extradition law, policy and practice; and
  •  police use of force, the investigation of police-related deaths and police monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
The List of Issues Prior to Reporting is available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/followup/AdvanceVersion/Australia_AV_en.pdf

The Human Rights Law Resource Centre ('HRLRC') submission to the Committee, which significantly informed the Committee's List of Issues, is at http://www.hrlrc.org.au/content/topics/counter-terrorism/torture-and-ill-treatment-submission-to-un-committee-against-torture-on-australia-24-august-2010/.

(2011) 36(1) AltLJ 60

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