The recent VLAD laws have received considerable attention by the media and have been widely discussed in the community. Following the introduction of these laws, the Premier of Queensland Campbell Newman last week made the extraordinary claims that any lawyer who represents bikies is “part of the criminal gang machine”.
The Premier, as reported in The Courier-Mail, has stated that lawyers who represent individuals affected by the VLAD legislation are “hired guns (who) take money from people who sell drugs to our teenagers and young people”. Also stating that “they are part of the criminal gang machine and they will see, say and do anything to defend their clients and try and get them off, or indeed progress their sort of case, their dishonest case.”
Brittany White, a former government prosecutor and experienced criminal lawyer at Quinn & Scattini, outlines her thoughts concerning the extraordinary statements that have been levelled against officers of the court.
“I think Campbell Newman’s comments are absolutely appalling.
Solicitors and Barristers have a primary duty to the Court above all else, inclusive of their clients. Further, there is an implicit suggestion in Mr Newman’s comments that somehow those accused of offending under the new legislation aren’t entitled to the same rights to legal defence as everyone else.
The second we deny certain rights to those perceived to be members of a particular group and afford greater rights to others is the day we move closer to being a totalitarian state.
Every person is entitled to a competent and unbiased legal defence. A fair and balanced criminal justice system is the cornerstone of our democratic society.
I would encourage our Parliamentary representatives to respect the important function lawyers perform in our society. They act as unbiased representatives for those in difficult circumstances and act as mouthpieces for those who are unable to speak for themselves. If a parliamentary representative is of the belief that certain lawyers have partaken in illegal activities, then law enforcement authorities should investigate this in the appropriate manner.
Blanket accusations should certainly not be made against all lawyers, particularly those assisting with defending an accused who would otherwise be unable to represent himself or herself in criminal proceedings against them. Mr Newman’s comments otherwise suggest that certain individuals in our society should not be represented, which is a view completely contrary to our judicial system that has been founded on the principles of fairness, justice and respect for human rights.”