'Right to silence' crucial for democracy in NSW - ALA

15th Aug 2012

The Australian Lawyers Alliance is expressing disbelief that the O’Farrell Government would strike at the heart of democratic principles with an attack on every NSW citizen’s right to silence by amending such a law.

“This shows wanton disregard for protections that all Australians should hold dear – the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence, which are both inextricably entwined with the fundamental right to silence,” ALA National President, Anthony Kerin, said.

“This principle exists for good reason and is firmly entrenched in all western democracies. It was originally born in 16th century England when arresting officers, obliged to present timely transcripts to judges of those arrested, were found to be forcibly extracting confessions and destroying the trial process,” Mr Kerin said.

He said Mr O’Farrell’s assertion that the United Kingdom had now altered such a right, failed to recognise that measures in that nation had now been complicated by the existence of subsequent human rights legislation that did not apply in Australia.

“Trying to destroy the rights of people in NSW to exercise their right to silence, is just another example of the great political race to trample on civil rights in a bid to being seen to be tough on crime as a means of maintaining voter approval.

"The ALA will continue to voice strong concerns about the erosion of such fundamental rights without which the fabric of a fair and just NSW will continue to be eroded by short-term political thinking designed to win the support of powerful lobby groups at the expense of justice,” Mr Kerin said.

“Australians should be demanding greater long term vision, rather than accepting knee-jerk responses from their politicians whose only interest is their own political survival. Only when this happens can society truly thrive,” he said.

Tags: Human rights NSW Access to justice police powers