Public must see justice being done
No legal aphorism has been quoted more often than Lord Gordon Hewart's "justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done".
Lord Hewart's famed comment almost a century ago was ostensibly concerned with the topic of apprehended bias and the deleterious effect perceptions of prejudice can have on the justice system.
The modern understanding of this adage is that it is in the justice system's best interests for proceedings to be conducted in open court as much as possible so the public can have faith in its processes.
The Courier-Mail has argued this point on numerous occasions over the years and given Lord Hewart began his working career as a journalist, it is not a stretch to believe that he would have agreed with us.
Yet with monotonous regularity, it seems those charged with dispensing justice quickly forget Lord Hewart's wise words once they assume their exulted positions in our society. The latest is Magistrate Rosemary Gilbert who was appointed to the role by former Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath in late 2019 after a career working for Legal Aid Queensland.
In a troublesome decision, Her Honour yesterday banned the media outlets from covering her court's deliberations over the high profile case of the teen driver charged with killing Kate Leadbetter, Matt Field and their unborn son Miles on Australia Day.
Under Queensland law, journalists are allowed to cover Children's Court matters when it is decided their presence will not be prejudicial to the interests of the accused.
This occurs on a routine basis with professional media outlets keeping Queenslanders informed through their reports while maintaining the requirement to refrain from identifying victims and accused offenders when required.
Despite this, Magistrate Gilbert yesterday opposed an application from seven media outlets for access to her court, insisting the presence of the media and reporting on what occurred would be "prejudicial to the interest of the child….".
It was, to say the least, a curious decision by the recently-appointed magistrate given the court had previously granted permission for media to be allowed to report the first mention of the teen's case after his arrest in late January.
However, what compounded the injurious nature of the decision was Magistrate Gilbert's refusal to allow legal representatives of the media outlets to argue the case for their journalists to be allowed access to the hearing.
Not only is it concerning that the court sided with the argument by the teen's legal representative and the prosecutor that the matter should be heard behind closed doors but it was flabbergasting that the established process of allowing the media to argue an alternative view was not followed.
This was a bitter blow for justice being seen to be done.
It raises questions about what Queenslanders will be allowed to know once this case progresses.
There may be matters yet to emerge as to why this decision was necessary. Yet given public sentiment about this case, yesterday's decision risks undermining the faith Queenslanders have in the ability of the courts to dispense justice in a way that meets community expectations.
Lord Hewart would be appalled.
WE NEED A STIRLING EFFORT TO RETAIN TOP EVENTS
Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe's lament that the World Surfing League (WSL) is looking to take its iconic Snapper Rocks event to a more lucrative location is understandable.
However, rather than complain, Mr Hinchliffe should do his job and ensure this event does not leave Queensland, potentially for good.
The WSL would have been left financially stricken by the decision to call off contests last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Truth be said, they would probably prefer to keep tradition at Snapper going.
But lucrative offers from other states to cover the quarantining costs of surfers would be too good to knock back right now.
Event tourism has become an arms race between states and Queensland has to be sure what it pays is worth it.
But losing an event like this when our state's tourism industry is really suffering would be a terrible outcome for Queensland.
Originally published as Public must see justice being done