Wishing you a Merry and Safe Christmas

The whole team at Kernaghan and Associates wishes you all a very merry and very safe Christmas, this December. We hope your holidays are restful and that you start the new year with cracking success (much like, we hope, the Australian Cricket Team). 


Best wishes for the New Year and we shall see you all soon.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Aaron, James, Leisha, Todd, Tim, Kyle.

Wollongong University – DISGRACEFUL


 The decision to scrap the University of Wollongong’s Professional Legal Training program is a disgraceful and shameful blow to the development of professional graduates from the law school and a demonstration of the university’s erstwhile disregard for the importance and prestige of the faculty of law.


Professional legal training is an additional qualification required after a law student graduates from law before they can obtain a practicing certificate. It is compulsory to obtain prior to being admitted as a practitioner. 

The traditional provider of the course has been in Sydney but Wollongong University has for many years provided an excellently composed and local option for students for whom Sydney is too far away and involves too much cost. The significance of that option has been fundamental to the ability of many local Wollongong and Illawarra based students to get the necessary qualifications and get themselves moving into law. Equally important, the course has provided rare opportunities for students to become connected to the local profession and obtain invaluable experience in legal work – often affording them a foot in the door to employment, post-admission.

But now the University, (which I understand is ridiculously hell-bent on amalgamating the faculty into the Creative Arts and Arts Faculties) has decided PLT has to go because it’s too expensive. Perhaps the University should consider getting rid of its faintly ridiculously and largely irrelevant (to practice) post-graduate faculties and research centres and start focussing on the basics – the proper education of law students and the honing of their professional skills to qualify them to obtain a practicing certificate.

Now, the message is clear, you might be able to get your law degree in Wollongong, but you’ll still need to head off to Sydney to actually get qualified so as to get a practising certificate. The decision is profoundly short sighted and insufficiently (in my view) justified. Perhaps the situation at the university is more dire than we are lead to believe.

More on this, including entirely sensible comments from the President of the Local Law Society, in the Mercury here.

New Layout

We have a new layout to the blog, what do you think? Bare with us while we make some fine-tune adjustments.

Sly Defence Lawyers

A respected and entirely professional and experienced investigator recently indicated that an (at least) equally experienced and senior prosecutor had suggested to her that defence lawyers cannot be trusted, that they are sly.

This perception is commonly reported as the perception of the general public – yet here it apparently is from a professional within the legal system, who should know better. Such a statement does nothing to preserve the dignity of the profession, nor for the matter is it especially polite.

But it is revealing of the increasingly hostile nature of the states prosecution services. The day when the DPP would utilize its discretion to act impartially, objectively and with dispassionate gravitas appears to have turned to the day when the DPP seeks to be the moral guardian of the state. Implicit in the comment above is an assertion that not only must defence lawyers not be trusted, but that only the prosecutors can be. 

The reasons why such a view might be held probably cut across a number of issues and experiences. But it is an interesting insight into the approach now taken in the context of criminal litigation. Just recently, in another part of the state, a prosecutor took it upon himself to object to a client electing to insist upon his right for a trial by jury. His intended objection was later withdrawn – it having no basis in law or in principle.

At this time of the year, it’s helpful to ponder these experiences to look ahead and see what the future might bring.

Darwin the Ikea Monkey

Monkeys at Christmas?

A monkey who shocked onlookers when he walked into an Ikea store wearing a winter coat and nappy, has sparked a wave of jokes across social media. 

He was spotted in a parking lot near an Ikea in Toronto before he walked in to the famous Swedish furniture store.

Police believe he escaped from a car before he ended up wandering into the Ikea store, The Daily Mail reports.

The monkey, known now as Darwin, has been described as a “smart monkey” by Canadian police.

Compared to what?

Australian Big Brother

That little photo you get taken for your passport? You might be helping Police compare your image to a suspect from a CCTV captured robbery or glassing at a pub. This in from the Herald Sun Online today:

“BIOMETRIC facial scans taken for passports, drivers’ licences or nightclub entry can now be stored in police and spy agency databases, under changes to Australia’s privacy laws. 

The Gillard government’s new privacy legislation has removed the ban on biometric data being handed to crime-fighting agencies.

[…]

The Attorney-General’s Department revealed that police will be able to ask private companies – including shops, pubs and clubs – to hand over their patrons’ facial scans.

“These changes will allow, for example, a pub to pass on to police a face scan of someone involved in a glassing attack,” a spokeswoman told News Ltd.

“Or, police could ask a government agency to help them identify an alleged murderer through matching an image obtained via CCTV (closed circuit television) with client photos.

[…]

The power for police to store biometric data that was originally provided for a passport or driver’s licence is buried within 290 pages of explanatory memorandum for the legislative amendments, passed during parliament’s final sitting week this year.

“He said law enforcement agencies must not be handed biometric data automatically, but should have to obtain a warrant.”

What’s wrong with it? Identification is a notoriously difficult process, troubled by the reality that not everyone sees the same thing at the same time, even when all things are equal. The result is that what one Police Officer may see as a striking similarity in appearance may be considered by another person to be strikingly dissimilar. Unfortunately the potential is there for investigators to mis-identify you from your passport image and have you in the clink, spending the next year trying to defend yourself from charges you were the suspected culprit.

Of course we are meant to be assured by words like “new software” and “advanced technology” which is all there to help us feel like computers will take our the fluffy human equation. None of that technology is accepted in court at this stage, so far as we are aware, no-one has even tried to use it in court. Perhaps that is because computers aren’t allowed to give evidence – only people. Perhaps that will change too. 

And then the Government might consider legislating so that computers can determine the guilt of a client? Perhaps that would be a good idea too?

Full story here.