Archive for the ‘law’ Category
During lunch this afternoon I listened to the podcast of Julian Burnside (he’s a “top human rights barrister”!) and Gerry Simpson (professor of international law at the London School of Economics) talk about war crimes and international law at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. You can watch/listen online via to the ABC Fora TV site, which I totally recommend you do because I can’t be bothered writing out all the interesting discussion about the history of international law and victors’ justice and such.
However, I wanted to post a link to this article from Harper’s (the awesome American one, not the snooty Australian Bazzar one) if we might soon see a Ticket to The Hague for Dick Cheney? Most amusing was the reference to the report that the PBS network
found that it had no network space for [the documentary] Torturing Democracy until January 20, 2009—the day the Bush Administration decamps from Washington.
I wish our dollar wasn’t so shit so that I could subscribe to Harper’s and read this month’s cover story ‘JUSTICE AFTER BUSH: Prosecuting an Outlaw Administration’, but I’ll have to wait til Borders gets that issue in in June 😛
Following the inquiry into the death of prisoner Simon Rochford, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker recommend legislation to allow police to suppress information that might “compromise an investigation into a serious offence.”
Western Australia’s new new Attorney-General Christian Porter (the guy who told The Australian that addressing the state’s indigenous prison rate was not high on his agenda) apparently thinks this recommendation is “sensible and deserves consideration”.
Erm… giving the police MORE powers to keep stuff OUT of the press when on most occasions they seem to love PUTTING IT THERE THEMSELVES seems a little strange.
Rochford’s death was yet another chapter in the legal saga surrounding the 1994 murder of Pamela Lawrence. Andrew Mallard’s conviction for the murder was quashed by the High Court in 2005 after he had spent over a decade in jail. The Corruption and Crime Commish made findings of misconduct against police and prosecutors involved in the case. A cold case review discovered a previously unidentified palm print from the crime scene which was traced back to Rochford … who happened to be serving time for the murder of his girlfriend.
Deputy Coroner Vicker found that the ABC television news report naming Rochford as the new suspect in the high-profile murder case “precipitated” his decision to commit suicide just hours after he saw the news.
Last week, The Australian‘s Debbie Guest pointed out that:
The calls for new police powers follow a year of scrutiny of Perth media, including a raid on the Sunday Times newspaper by armed police in an attempt to find the source of a story that embarrassed the previous Carpenter government. [link]
Yeah, News Ltd is still pissed about that one. But I don’t think this is about the media.
Last year I wrote on my own blog about how the cops effed up in naming Supreme Court Registrar Corryn Rayney’s “estranged” husband the “prime suspect” in her murder yet never charged him. Mr Rayney, who’s a FRICKING BARRISTER, recently sued the coppers and the government for defamation.
An article on PerthNow reporting that police revealed info about an item found at the site in King’s Park where Registrar Rayney’s body was found, noted:
Since the defamation writ was issued last month, police have been reluctant to comment on any aspect of the Rayney case.
But wait… now the government wants to give the cops the powers to “suppress information”?
You’ve gotta be kidding me, Christian Porter — the boys in blue can’t keep their OWN mouths shut, dontcha think you need to work on that before fannying about with “suppression” laws?
And, um, didn’t they keep quiet about the tape of Jane or Sarah talking to some random at The Claremont on the night they went missing for twelve years and then got bitch-slapped about that?
This is not about the media going over the line. This is about the cops making value judgments about things when it suits them, and then blaming the mean, nasty media when the shit hits the fan.
Now, Labor’s shadow Attorney-General McGinty says nasty suppression legislation could stifle information which should be made public (well spotted, Captain Duh):
“I have reservations about the wisdom of yet further suppression orders of information [that] should be in the public arena,” he said.
“I think on balance that the public interest is best served by not having so many prohibitions on the public being given the information upon which they can make their judgements.” [link]
Ok, look, I love the dude (especially for everything he did for ending discrimination against Teh Gays in WAys, and stuff) and he’s right, there’s no point putting more powers in the cop’s hands, but in my humble opinion, Jimmy doesn’t actually get the point either.
I just wonder… Will laws ban giving info to the jurors who are supposed to make the judgments? Because until they are unable to lie their way out of jury duty, no member of the public should be making judgements about anyone’s criminal liability.
They should get back to washing their cars on the lawns and shopping at Bunnings and doing those other things all good Sandgropers do. Ok?
While the police are investigating stuff, the public should have no right to information unless aforementioned public can help. The public ‘making judgements’ about on-going investigations, where no charges have been laid and no case against a person has been made in a court of law, has got squat to do with it.
Everyone got that? Good.
But Jimmy’s right on the essential bit: banning the media from talking about criminal investigations like that isn’t the solution.
Sue Short, the ABC reporter who broke the story, said she wouldn’t have named Rochford if she’d “been given a good reason” and call me naïve but I would like to think journos still have the ethics and/or values that would have them hold off on a story if it would do more harm than good to an on-going investigation.
Legislators don’t need to create powers that let the police keep the media quiet, they need to get the police to do their job, and give them proper media training while they’re at it.
The pollies should get back to something they can actually fix instead of wasting time ranting on about unnecessary and draconian “suppression” laws.
I mean, honestly. What do they think they’re running? Notre Dame Uni? Psh.
I read this book in less than 24 hours. For someone who’s spent MONTHS reading just one particular book, that is indeed a little unusual.
But I had quite the impetus to get though this quickly: for me, it was an A Christmas Carol-ish story of my life past and what could possibly await me in the future. (But also it was written in a very conversational manner that made it super easy to read)
A few weeks ago, M forwarded me an article from the Melbourne Age’s ‘Sunday’ magazine. It was an excerpt from a forthcoming non-fiction title by Lisa Prior about how the best and brightest university students in Australia (who had mostly gotten into Law at uni by being freakishly over-achieving high school students) get sucked into corporate firms.
Sounded kinda familiar. I had to know more.
I picked the book up on Friday and devoured it the next day. But sometimes I had to stop and breathe. It’s a surprise when you find that the book you are reading actually seems like your biography.
At one stage I had to shut the book after I mentally ticked nearly all the boxes of the mini-quiz entitled “Could You be A Neurotic, Status-Conscious, Overachieving, Workaholic Control Freak?”
The book’s chapters outlines each aspect of Pryor’s argument about the way over-achieving wunderkinds get shipped into law school and then seduced by the Big Firms into dreary, horrible jobs they end up hating. Each chapter ends with amusing quizes or points of information that help you figure out if you’re at high risk of turning into a pinstripped inmate.
Pryor became my Ghost of High school Past when outlining the way private school darlings who do way more than anyone really needs to lock themselves away
amid swimming carnival ribbons and inter-house debating pennants, highlighting and cross-referencing, juggling sticky-notes and flash cards, recording the number of hours study this day and this week devoted to each subject in hand-drawn rosters, carefully calculating the minimum mark they will need to get in their Othello essay to maintain the number one rank in the top English class, before running off to senior school choir practice, hockey, flute lessons, dance eisteddfods or rugby training.
If that paragraph had had Medea instead of Othello, school production instead of choir, netball instead of hockey (and no dance or rugby or any mention of winning ribbons of any sort) I would worry that Lisa Pryor spied on me as a teenager.
But. Oh fuck. I really was that much of a tool, wasn’t I? Yeesh.
Anyway. Back to the book.
Pryor continues from that breathless list with the following observation: “In every activity they will be scored, marked and ranked, ranked, ranked against their peers.”
And, you see, it is this trait of constantly competing and ranking and fighting for top spot that makes kids like us (who get into Law — the course that only allows students with the top-top marks — and then graduate with prizes and honours and what have you) the perfect fodder for the law firm recruitment rigmarole my friends and I only know too well.
The chapter entitled “Recruitment Brochure Bingo”, which outlines how Every. Single. Firm describes themselves as “unique, dynamic and diverse”, would be gut-splittingly hilarious if it didn’t gut-wretchingly make me realise that I got so totally sucked in by it all:
“The recruitment brochure is a weapon in the propaganda assault that big firms unleash on graduating students. The genre is as manipulative as military recruitment material, only with a whole lot more stock photography of skyscrapers.”
The brochures are, of course, supplemented with the “information evenings” aka canapés and champers nights, coffee outings and all the fancy breakfasts, lunches, dinners you get while on vacation clerkships. There is a thought-provoking question related to all of this:
Big firms are terribly eager to make the jobs they offer seem fabulous and desirable. They go to expensive lengths to bribe students with free food, twilight drinks and sponsorship money. For all the questions overachieving braniacs ask during the recruitment process, they seem to miss the most important one: if these firms are really so brilliant and do offer a life beyond compare, why do they have to work so hard to convince people to join?
Dun dun dun! Sounds foreboding, doesn’t it?
Pryor also makes the connection between the way the firms use corporate sponsorship of law school competitions and events to get themselves known to the kiddies and the lack of money available to student guilds and associations in general. I won’t get into the voluntary student unionism thing here, but let me just say this one thing: the Law Student Society at uni always had more money, and did the best events and services, which benefited a small proportion of the uni’s students, while the Student Association that was supposed to cater for the whole campus had to scrimp and beg and forgo. She’s not making any of this up.
The Ghost of Law Career Future scared me a heck of a lot more. I am standing at the precipice of starting as a law grad at one of the very firms Pryor paints as hell (there is a rather funny fable about vacation clerkships at the start of Chapter 7).
Just to dilute my panic a little, I am making a fellow Over-Achieving Nutjob (whom I love dearly) who went to high school with me and will be starting there with me next year read this book so that we can pow-wow about it. Because there is a lot to take in, and many, many, many variables that I need to consider, and I will leave them all for another post.
It is sufficient here to say that Pryor has stories from several people who have been sucked into the corporate black hole. Some came out alive, some are still there. But we all know about the dramatically high rates of depression and anxiety (and often, self medication) among lawyers, and that is something all law students need to think really hard about.
But one thing needs to be noted at this point: Law is NOT for everyone. For the ones who don’t drop out of law school and end up in the Big Firms, there will be some who love it, want to be there, have always wanted to be there, and are meant to be there.
(M, my sweet darling boyfriend, is one of those people. That kinda absolutely freaks me out, but fact that thoughts of being A Partner’s Partner makes me want to throw up, is, also, another story.)
And then there will be others who do not feel the same way. They get in and realise much too late that they hate it, and come out with the stories of woe and misery. They will hate looking up archaic points of law or figuring out if that conjunction in that contract should be an “and” or an “or”, and will go home every night and cry themselves to sleep, before they jump off a building or write the next Hell Has Harbour Views.
I got a feeling from the book that one of the biggest problems here is the nature of the education system. The way tertiary entrance is merely a process aimed at ranking everyone to compete for a few select spots in a few select courses that, somehow, are deemed to be more worthy and respectable than others means that kids who aren’t supposed to be lawyers end up studying law, and then end up in jobs they hate.
Again, though, the despicablility of the way tertiary education is heading is another story for another post. But I hear the Uni of Melbs is making law post-grad only and I think that’s totally the right idea.
There is another thesis in the book which impacts everyone, not just the Over-Achieving Law Nutjobs. And this is essentially that the cream of the clever country’s clever cookies were being stashed away in private cookie jars to only be chewed up by partners and clients of law, banking or business consulting firms. The public didn’t get the benefit of what these kids have to offer, and Pryor asks:
What does it mean for us as a nation when so many of our cleverest people are being siphoned from careers in which they could be doing something useful?
As I consider myself quite the Tim Tam, and, at that, one who went into law school thinking it was the first step in my journey to save the world (because we all know, Tim Tams fix everything), this is quite the conundrum. But, again, enough about me.
Generally speaking, on one hand, I reckon the fact that we have to pay for our own bloody degrees now means that if we can work in A Firm and love it and rake in the cash, no-one should tell us otherwise. If, however, we didn’t have to pay back HECS or HELP or whatever acronym the next government comes up with for the privilege of a tertiary education, then there might be some more merit in an argument that the firms are sucking up the brains of the clever country. (I wonder how busy Jenny Macklin’s office is at the moment? I think I have some submissions on The Future Of Higher Education to write.)
There is also a chapter on the massive problems about getting women up the ranks in these firms. Disheartening stuff. I’ve spoken and written on this issue before and, again, I have suggestions for proposed solutions which I’ll put in another post. This is a book review, people, focus.
After outlining who gets sucked in and how, Pryor provides a few ideas for how to break out of jail, along with the stories of others who’ve done it before. (Did y’all know that cool “Flipside” burger bar in North Freo is run by a Firm Escapee?). It wasn’t too preachy or anything, but this is the closest thing to a self-help book I’ve actually read (cf bought. Which I do. A lot. Because I’m neurotic).
While there are times when the author seems rather bitter and spiteful about private school kids and law firm princess, I have to admit there is still truth in the stereotypes, and Pryor’s cautionary tale is of the sort that tells you to learn from other people’s mistakes before you make them yourself.
Just a final note: I have not yet made any decisions about the next few years of my life. I have to survive the next few months, first. Damn you to hell, Alan Bond. But first, may you die a pauper, you smarmy git.
Ahem. That is all.
The Pinstriped Prison
Lisa Pryor (Picador, Sydney: 2008), 272pp.
After all the fun of yesterday, today is a sad day. It has been one year since Supreme Court Registrar Corryn Rayney disappeared and was later found murdered in a shallow grave in Kings Park. I’ve mentioned the issue before, and it’s unbelievable that it’s been a year already.
The fact that this happened in Perth is bad enough, because no matter what this place will always be a tiny little town, but I also know lots of people who worked with her and I know how much her passing affected them.
From every account, she was a wonderful human being.
I never met her, I’d never even heard of her before this, but yeah… it’s still just still so shocking and sad. I hope that wherever she is now, she’s at peace, and I truly hope everyone who was near and dear to her are ok.
Ok super quick rant but this just cannot go without mention.
We all know Teh West is the torchbearer for shit, sensationalist journalism, but TWAT “Chief Of Staff” Liam Phillips seems to have decided to step up to make a challenge to that title. Maybe it’s all the post-Tour de France, pre-Olympic competitive spirit coming out.
Young Phillips has posted a gem of a “opinion” piece highlighting the ignorance and just unbelievabe stupidness that makes this charming state well-known for being red-neck hicks who just love spouting their visceral knee-jerk affrontedness at the drop of a hat. (Lots of adjectives = Sunili is pissed off.)
On the coronial inquest into the suicide of Simon Rochford, the prisoner who topped himself after it was revealed he was the suspect in a 1994 murder (for which Andrew Mallard was wrongfully convicted and jailed), Phillips essentially wonders why we should cry for Rochford, when, frankly, he was just a roach:
… the most surprising aspect of the inquest’s coverage is the victimised way in which Rochford has often been presented.
Sure he committed suicide – a sad act. But let’s not forget, this man was no altar boy. He was a convicted killer serving a life jail term for the brutal murder of his girlfriend Brigitta Dickens in July 1994.
He became involved in the Pamela Lawrence case because he was suspected of bludgeoning her to death – a reasonable assumption, you would think, given his track record.
Uuuuuhhhh. Gee, well, um, I only did a law degree and now work at the Court and stuff, but I have a strange feeling that you’re not really supposed to make “reasonable assumptions” based on prior convictions, unless it’s in a very narrow set of circumstances. Or something. Heck, correct me if I’m wrong, eh?
For me, it’s all a bit of a moot point anyway. The ultimate aim of this exercise is to establish who killed Pamela Lawrence.
And committing suicide the day you have been named as a suspect is not the typical action of an innocent man.
Not only is that just totally effing offensive to anyone who knows the slightest thing about the principles of criminal justice (establishing who killed her kinda needs a trial and stuff, which we can’t have since the guy’s dead, but hey, I could be wrong again) … I have a feeling it takes the vitriole of “law and order” ranting in this state down to new lows.
Or maybe I’m just lucky to not have read anything worse in recent memory.
But what’s worse besides, that’s just the kinda moron attitude that gets the wrong person locked up for 12 years, isn’t it?
I bloody hope my idol Patti Chong has a go at this knob on Thursday.
PS: Today’s iGoogle quote of the day is amusingly appropriate:
People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.
– AJ Liebling
I cannot believe these douchebags get away with publishing and justifying it as “opinion”. How the hell do people get these gigs? Why are they not made to write “I will not tell lies” on the back of their hands with magical mean-quills? Fucktards. Sorry. This really irks me.