Suspects deserve presumption of innocence following terror raids

18th Sep 2014

Media coverage of the terror raids carried out by Federal Police in Sydney and Brisbane is undermining the presumption of innocence for those individuals questioned or arrested during the proceedings, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

ALA spokesperson and barrister Greg Barns said the safeguards built into the Australian legal system to ensure fairness before the law for all individuals were being damaged before people had the right to defend themselves in court.

“The presence of media at this morning’s raids by police and ASIO on homes in Sydney and Queensland is undermining of the presumption of innocence and fairness,” Mr Barns said.

“Every time there are raids and arrests made by police and ASIO in so called ‘terror cases’ the media is always there to film proceedings. “

“This means that police, ASIO and possibly politicians are leaking out details of the raids prior to them taking place,” Mr Barns said.

“Further images of individuals in handcuffs and of their homes are designed to create an atmosphere of guilt and suspicion.”

“We need also to remember that when previous raids have taken place, inflammatory and grossly inaccurate claims have been made by politicians and police about those arrested or raided,” Mr Barns said.

“In 2005, for example, Victoria’s Police Commissioner and some media outlets made claims that an imminent terrorist attack was thwarted, and iconic Melbourne buildings were targeted, when some young men were arrested.” 

“The evidence at the trial of these men in 2008 showed that these claims were utterly false,” Mr Barns said.

“No matter how serious the allegations of criminal conduct, we do not abandon fundamental principles of our legal system so that police can have press coverage.”

“What separates us from those who would create terror is our fundamental belief in a fair trial,” Mr Barns said.

Tags: Access to justice Criminal justice