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Retrial numbers under scrutiny

Briefs

Cite as: (2005) 79(11) LIJ, p. 13


Victorian Court of Appeal president Justice Chris Maxwell has begun investigating a high number of retrials ordered this year in relation to appeals from the Supreme and County Courts.

Justice Maxwell said that together with County Court Chief Judge Michael Rozenes, he was “committed to getting to the bottom of this”.

More retrials had been ordered this year than for the whole of last year in appeals from the County and Supreme Courts, he said at the launch of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association (CDLA) on 7 September.

“And many of those retrials have been necessary because of a misdirection, or a failure to give a direction, to the jury,” he said.

“Preliminary results of research by the Department of Criminology at the University of Melbourne show that, in 60 per cent of successful appeals in sexual offence cases, the appeal succeeded because of a misdirection or a failure to give a necessary direction.”

Justice Maxwell said he was not implying criticism but underlining “the magnitude of the task that confronts all those of us who believe in the criminal justice system, and want to see it working effectively and fairly”.

Justice Maxwell, a former president of Liberty Victoria, also said that despite becoming a judge, he intended to keep speaking about human rights issues.

“It seems to me that the judicial arm of government can have views about human rights just as any other part of government can, and good criminal law is about human rights,” he said.

CDLA president Robert Stary said the new association would consult with government and educate the community on criminal justice issues.

Key objectives of the association were, to engage and consult with government on issues of justice, educate the community on issues concerning criminal justice, promote fairness in the criminal justice system, preserve and protect the rights of citizens, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised and provide an accessible starting point for people in urgent need of criminal law assistance but who were unable to access normal legal services, such as families of Australians arrested overseas.

For further information, contact the CDLA on ph 9640 0464 or see the website at http://www.cdla.com.au.

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