The Attorney-General Learns About The Separation Of Powers

January 16, 2014

By PATRICK KEYZER, Professor of Constitutional Law.

On 18 October last year I tweeted that the Criminal Law Amendment (Public Interest Declarations) Act was unconstitutional.

For those of you who haven’t been following this debate, or haven’t been following it closely, on 17 October 2013 the Newman Government enacted legislation that authorised the Queensland Attorney-General (at present, Jarrod Bleijie), to ask the Governor to make a “public interest declaration” that a sex offender released from detention by the Queensland Supreme Court or the Queensland Court of Appeal should be returned to prison if it was in the public interest to do so.

Just repeating that for emphasis: a politician could have the Governor (who in our tradition of responsible government must act on the advice of that politician) to send a person back to prison when they have been released by a court.

In short: this law would allow a politician to send a person to prison.

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Courts And Social Media Project In The Judicial Officers’ Bulletin

July 10, 2013

An article on our courts and social media research project has appeared in the Judicial Officers’ Bulletin published by the Judicial Commission of NSW. Detailing the research methodology which employed nominal group technique, the various findings that emerged from the research, and the issue of aborted trials due to juror misuse of social media, the article reflects on the ubiquity of social media and its increasing impact on court processes and the continuing administration of justice.

An extract of the article is provided below with a link to the article in full also included.


“Social media” is a collective term for a group of internet-based applications that allow users to create, organise and distribute messages, pictures and audio-visual content. Generally speaking, social media is characterised by its accessibility, participatory culture and interactivity. Social media can be “two way” (allowing conversations characterised by varying degrees of publicity, depending on the privacy settings selected by the contributor) or “one way” (allowing publication of information, but not permitting comment).

Social media has created intense challenges for the law and judicial administration. Traditionally, the courts have employed the law of sub judice contempt to prevent prejudicial publicity, to protect the right to a fair trial, and to ensure the due administration of justice. Courts also have the option of making non-publication orders about cases. However, social media applications have dramatically increased the number of people who can publish material about court cases. Many of these “citizen journalists” are unaware of the legal rules that restrict what they can publish.

To view the full article, click this link:

Judicial Officers’ Bulletin; The Courts and Social Media

© Institute for Law, Government and Policy 2013

Submission In Response To The Safer Streets Crime Action Plan – Youth Justice

July 3, 2013

By JODIE O’LEARY, BRUCE WATT, SUZIE O’TOOLE and PATRICK KEYZER on behalf of the Youth Justice Research Division.

By responding to the release of the Queensland Government’s ‘Safer Streets Crime Action Plan – Youth Justice,’ our Institute is able to provide assistance for the development of a youth justice system in Australia. Spearheaded by Institute member Jodie O’Leary, submissions were written in response to the proposed action plan. These detailed improvements and review of relevant legal processes, and addressed issues of bail, sentencing and reintegration of young offenders.

An extract of the submission and a link to full submission is provided below.


The Youth Justice Research Division (‘YJRD’) thanks the Queensland Government for this opportunity to contribute in response to its ‘Safer Streets Crime Action Plan – Youth Justice’ (‘the Action Plan’). The YJRD would welcome the opportunity to provide more detailed submissions on specific proposals arising from this process. The YJRD acknowledge and applaud the Government’s proposal to provide a Blueprint to ‘further assist young people and their families to demonstrate their full potential.’ The YJRD urges the Government, in developing an innovative ‘youth justice system that leads the nation’, to:

  • take an evidence-based approach. The implementation of any legislation, program or service should be informed by evidence as to what works and what does not work in youth justice;
  • ensure that any program or service implemented by any stakeholder is comprehensively evaluated; and
  • recognise that developmental characteristics of young offenders impact on their involvement in criminal activity and the justice system (Scott & Steinberg 2008). These characteristics differentiate young offenders from adults and justify a separate system of youth justice.

To view the full submission, click this link:

YJRD Submission

©  Institute for Law, Government and Policy 2013

Juvenile Fitness For Trial – Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Lawyers

December 24, 2012

On 25 November 2012, Bruce Watt, Jodie O’Leary and Suzie O’Toole presented in Melbourne at ANZAPPL’s 32nd Annual Congress entitled ‘Evolving Paradigms in Forensic Practice’.  Watt, O’Leary and O’Toole’s presentation, ‘Juvenile fitness for trial: psychiatrists, psychologists and lawyers’ revealed their preliminary research findings concerning the adequacy of current safeguards, both legal and forensic, relating to the treatment of juvenile offenders who may lack fitness to plead in QLD courts.

To view the presentation click the link below:

Juvenile Fitness For Trial Presentation 2012

*Please note, the results included in the presentation are preliminary findings only.

Australian Cultural Digital Facilitation: National Questions Of Culture-Commerce-Convergence

November 30, 2012

By MARCUS BREEN, Professor of Communication and Media and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy.

The Australian Federal Government’s Convergence Review together with the Cultural Policy Review have provoked questions about funding and continued public support for the cultural sector. Australian national interest is reflected in cross-party funding over many years for cultural institutions – Australian Film and Television / Screen Australia, Triple J, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and more recently support for new media and creative industries. (See for example It is a growing and complex set of demands that combines culture with commerce and convergence.

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Legal Challenges Of A National Child Abuse Royal Commission

November 13, 2012

The Australian’s Legal Affair’s editor, Chris Merritt recently covered the push for a commonwealth royal commission into child abuse.  When Julia Gillard revealed her plans, concerns emerged that the evidence gathered using the royal commission’s powers could not generally be used in criminal proceedings which may follow.  While the federal government has secured cooperation from NSW and Victoria in an endeavour to overcome constitutional limitations that may have restricted the scope of the enquiry, Patrick Keyzer, Director of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy comments on the doubts that may have been raised for the viability of such a commission.

To view the article, click the link below.

‘A Question of Justice’, The Australian, 13 November 2012

Mental Illness, The News Media and Open Justice: The Australian Experience

September 20, 2012

By MARK PEARSON, Professor of Journalism and member of the Institute for Law, Government and Policy

I recently presented a paper at the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) convention in Chicago – one of the world’s largest gatherings of journalism academics.

My paper is an extension of earlier work stemming from research grants from the Australian Government’s Mindframe National Media Initiative, published as an article in the May 2011 edition of the Pacific Journalism Review, and as a chapter in our book Courts and the Media: Challenges in the era of digital and social media (with Patrick Keyzer and Jane Johnston (eds), Halstead Press, 2012).

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