25 August 2012

Save the right to silence

"You have the right to remain silent" has become merely an American cop-show line here in New South Wales, Australia.
Government proposals concerning the Right to Silence
As reported in In Brief earlier this week, the NSW Government has announced proposals to amend the Evidence Act to allow juries and the judiciary to draw an adverse inference against an alleged criminal who refuses to speak to investigating police, but later produces evidence at trial. The Bar Association has publicly expressed its opposition to the proposals and will be making representations to the government on the issue. Members may wish to contact their local member of parliament  or the premier to convey their views. Members may also be interested to know that an Online petition – “Save the Right To Silence”  - has been established to enable the community to register their protest against the proposed laws.
— In Brief bulletin, published by the NSW Bar Association, 17 August 2012
"Ironically, if the law was enacted, the people least affected would be career criminals, who would know they should stay silent anyway. The people most affected would be those charged for the first time, who are nervous or panicked, or who have a disability, language difficulties or other disadvantages."
—Justin Dowd, "Right to silence change is bad law", The Australian, 17 August 2012

"The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that silence can be used as evidence against defendants only if they had received legal advice before being questioned: how otherwise is a lay person to know what might harm their defence in court if they don't mention it to police?
— David Dixon, "On the right to silence, all the rhetoric is deafening", Brisbane Times, 16 August 2012

"Every parent knows that if you ask an errant child where he was in the afternoon, the child will mumble a deflecting lie or deception. Maturity does not erase human nature; in fact, it makes it more serious and its consequences more disastrous. Any suspect may choose to tell any police freely, after proper advice, after catching his emotional breath. The impact of a video interview played to a jury containing an error, mistake or fumble, mumble or flat-out mistruth on one issue - not the issue of guilt or innocence - is almost impossible to erase."
— Charles Waterstreet, "Shouting out our right to silence", Brisbane Times, 19 August 2012

Sign the petition:  Save the right to silence

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