Lord (of Appeal in Ordinary) Johan Van Zyl Steyn, 73, is a good old Jaapie who nailed the “utter lawlessness” of Guantanamo Bay in November 2003.
He said the USA was guilty of a “monstrous failure of justice”, and that those detained were “beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts, and at the mercy of victors”.
Lord Steyn was stating what every lawyer knows, except those taking instructions from George (Codpiece*) Bush, a group of hapless herpetoids who could not possibly include Little Jackie, Little Philie, Little Bobbie (our gallant War Minister) and Little Nickie Munchkin (Vice-President of the Executive Council).
Little Georgie may be a tireless bicyclist, holiday-maker, and rolled gold dullard, but he does know there is little point in trying alleged terrsts on mainland USA: the criminal system there is unfairly rigged to get more than half the guilty off.
Ordinarily, that is seen as no more than a mildly regrettable by-product of the great cause of making money for trial lawyers, but desperate times demand desperate remedies, and President Codpiece’s remedy was confirmed on August 1, 2005.
It was then belatedly disclosed that two prosecutors, Major Robert Preston and Captain John Carr, had noted in March 2004 that show trials in the gulag would be unfairly rigged the other way, i.e. to procure guilty verdicts against, among others, our very own David Hicks.
A fairer and more effective remedy was recommended last March by police chief Mick Kelpie. His proposed French system protects the innocent and puts away the great majority of dangerous criminals. As Justice James (Wilfred) Burchett told a Federal Court judges’ conference in Darwin in January 1996:
“My reading suggests that even those comparative lawyers who are critical of the French criminal law do accept that French courts are fair, and that the verdict reached is generally accurate.”
That can be seen as a devastating critique of the English system, and the UK is now nibbling at the French pre-trial technique of using investigating judges to question terror suspects.
Unfortunately, when judges do the heavy lifting, there is not a lot of money for trial lawyers, but they can easily foment public and media resistance by subliminal use of the race card: Brits know in their hearts that all things French are inferior, except of course the food, the wine, the anthem, and the sex.
Justice Burchett did not fancy the idea of importing investigating judges to Australia, but he did say:
” ... it is to be hoped we can learn something from a system which works, not only in France, but throughout Europe. Perhaps appropriate inquisitorial techniques could be developed for some of the corporate fraud and other massive criminal prosecutions with which our system copes so badly.”
That raises two pregnant questions. Would fraud cases concerning, say, S. Vizard (LL.B, Melb) and N. Petroulias have turned out differently if Dazzling Daryl Williams BCL (Oxon) QC, our learned first law officer from March 1996 to October 2003, had adopted those techniques? Tick answer: Yes/No.
And will The Dazzler’s distinguished successor, P. Ruddock LL.B (Syd), adopt the techniques to cope a little better with massive criminal prosecutions, e.g. of alleged terrsts? Tick answer: Yes/No.
*Some observers, including Mr David Hare, author of the play Stuff Happens, suspect that Little Georgie wore a huge device on Friday, May 2, 2003 when he landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to claim that he, Jackie and Tony had won the unlawful war against Iraq (pop. 27 million). It was assumed that his Special Counsel for Dirty Trix, K. Christian Rove, supplied the device to suggest to the dimwitted that El Presidente has the cojones to fight and win the war on terrsts.