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Political attacks on courts very worrying - Law Council of Australia

16 June 2017

The Law Council of Australia is calling for an end to what it calls political attacks on the judiciary, especially in cases where they might be perceived to interfere with matters currently before the courts. 

Council President, Fiona McLeod SC, says recent comments from Government MPs referring to "ideological experiments" supposedly being carried out by the judicial system are gravely concerning. 

“It is inappropriate to suggest that judges decide their cases on anything other than the law and the facts presented to them by the parties,” Ms McLeod says. 

“Attacking the independence of the judiciary does not make Australia safer, in fact it erodes public confidence in the courts and undermines the rule of law. 

“It is Australia's robust adherence to the rule of law that has underpinned this nation's status as one of the most peaceful, harmonious, and secure places in the world.” 

Ms McLeod says the Council has particular concerns about comments made in the media this week by Government MPs about a terror-related case before the courts in Victoria. 

"Australian politicians have traditionally, and quite correctly, been very careful to avoid any perception of attempting to influence the courts. This is a standard that should be upheld by every Member of Parliament," Ms McLeod said. 

“Commenting on a matter that is currently before the courts could be perceived by the public as an attempt to influence the outcome and interfere with the court process.” 

Ms McLeod noted that the media commentary was prompted by the court observing the difference in recent sentencing decisions between states and asking the prosecutor and defence counsel to address submissions on this difference. 

“The horrific nature of the crime is apparent to all and was in fact noted by members of the court during the hearing of the appeal,” Ms McLeod says. 

"It is therefore particularly unfair and concerning that the independence and impartiality of the courts have today been questioned. 

“The Court of Appeal will in this case, as in all cases, decide the matter on the facts and the applicable law.”

Last updated on the 16th June 2017