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High Court win

 

Transcript ABC 7.30 Report 12/5/2000

 

http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/stories/s126390.htm

 

MAXINE McKEW: The High Court's decision to overturn the convictions of three men found guilty of sexual assault in WA has thrown the future of so-called rape shield laws into doubt. The laws were designed to protect sexual assault victims from irrelevant scrutiny of their sexual history and reputations. But yesterday, the High Court found a Perth trial judge was wrong to disallow evidence of a sexually-charged phone call that took place between the complainant and one of the accused. The three men walked free from court, sparking claims that the ruling weakens rape shield laws and gives greater weight to the rights of the accused. Michelle White reports.

DR HELEN PRINGLE, UNIVERSITY OF NSW: I think this case has some potential to weaken the protections of the rape shield laws, but I also think that the case has a wider importance, in the sense that it again, if I can get back to this other point, it again asks us to think about what are typical rape cases.

ROSS WILLIAMSON, DEFENDANTS' LAWYER: It sets a very, very important precedent, which says that trials of these serious crimes shall be conducted fairly and the High Court, particularly the majority, has still agreed that certain relevant evidence will be excluded by virtue of these sections.

MICHELLE WHITE: James Marotta, Rodney King and Christopher Bull walked free from a Perth court yesterday, their conviction for gang-raping a 19-year-old woman overturned by the High Court. While the men were overjoyed by their victory, the High Court's decision has alarmed many in legal circles, among them, lawyer Jocelyn Scutt. JOCELYN SCUTT, LAWYER: It seems to me that it may well rev up, as it were, the women's movement to revisit this whole issue, and I would hope that it would make attorneys-general around the country and, praise be, chief justices around the country and other judges reflect upon the need to have judicial education.

MICHELLE WHITE: This case challenges the effectiveness of the so-called rape shield laws.

JOCELYN SCUTT: Rape shield laws were brought in around Australia in the '70s to enable judges in rape trials to focus on what was relevant evidence and what ought to be admissible. And they were drafted from a perspective that said disposition of complainants, so-called, in sexual matters, sexual reputation and sexual experience ought not to be allowed into the courtroom unless in certain circumstances where it had direct relevance to what the matters in issue were -- that is, the allegation of rape.

ROSS WILLIAMSON: The rape shield laws are there to protect the integrity of the trial process, to stop irrelevant and unnecessary humiliation of the complainant. No-one wanted to do that in this case. All the defence wanted to do in this case was explain what happened.

MICHELLE WHITE: Perth barrister Ross Williamson represented two of the accused men. Originally the jury found them guilty of sexual and indecent assault. Although sentenced to up to eight years in jail, in an unusual move, they were allowed bail, pending their appeal. Mr Williamson argued that vital evidence surrounding a phone call from one of the accused to the rape victim was wrongfully disallowed during the trial. He took the case to the High Court.

ROSS WILLIAMSON: The defence case was that at 2am, the lady concerned was invited over by one of the three gentlemen and, in the course of that invitation, there was sexually explicit conversation which indicated an invitation to her to engage in some kind of sexual activity with him and his other friends.

MICHELLE WHITE: The High Court ruled unanimously in the accused men's favour.

ROSS WILLIAMSON: Well, it was a very one-sided trial. The defence was effectively suffocated. The Crown prosecutor and the Crown witnesses, or one Crown witness, they were able to present one version of this phone call which was very important to the Crown case. But the defence was told by virtue of the trial judge's rulings, "Do not talk about those parts of the phone call."

DR HELEN PRINGLE: In this case, a telephone call was made and the defendant made reference to the earlier expressed fantasies and a phrase that the woman had used. There was no response by the victim to either of those comments and there was no specific take-up by the victim in the sense of, "I will come and I will do certain things".

MICHELLE WHITE: Political scientist Dr Helen Pringle at NSW University has been examining the implications of the case.

DR HELEN PRINGLE: I suppose it comes down to this question of what we understand is consent, what we take to be consent. And I think that's one of the most difficult problems that this case and other cases raise is what are we going to understand to be sufficient signs of consent?

ROSS WILLIAMSON: It all depends on who you think is the victim. When there's a false complaint, the victim is the accused, and of course, a trial in a civilised country like Australia has to be a fair trial, so it's a case of each side putting his or her story fully and the jury deciding.

JOCELYN SCUTT: I think that a notion that women are somehow getting away with something or that women have overly been protected is a misguided view, with respect, and that those who have that way of looking at the world or the law ought to reconsider their approach to the law and see that of course accused people have rights and those rights ought to be properly protected within the legal system.

 

Pastoralists angered by gun purge

 

West Australian, Page: 7. Saturday, 2 August, 2008

 

 

http://www.ssaa.org.au/media-monitoring/2008/2008-08-02_pastoralists-angered-by-gun-purge.html

 

 

Cattle station owners and workers throughout remote WA have become involved in a legal standoff with WA police in the State Administrative Tribunal after being stripped of their handguns and revolvers, which they say are integral to working and living on the land.
Lawyer Ross Williamson, who is representing the group, said police had taken guns from dozens of people in the past 18 months, including some who worked in water where crocodiles lived and mining prospectors who travelled down shafts into pits full of snakes.
The first case involving Pilbara station owner John Anick was heard by Justice Michael Barker at the SAT on Thursday Mr Williamson said his clients had to deal with wild and aggressive cattle and the police argument for revoking the gun licences was “they don ‘t need them”.
“My clients are all people who have got stories of being attacked while working,” he said.
Mr Williamson said most of the men had had the guns for up to 20 years and were bewildered as to why they were being taken from them under laws introduced after Martin Bryant shot dead 35 people at Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1996.
Det-Sen Sgt Shane Atkins said police had taken handguns and licences from about 400 people.
He said legislation no longer provided for pastoralists to have handguns but that the group were not being targeted.
“Some of these people have had firearms for quite a period of time but it is not in compliance with what legislation says at this point in time,” Sen Sgt Shane Atkins said. “It’s a regroup on a number of different levels, we are not just looking specifically at pastoralists.
“Jewellers, for example, 20 or 30 years ago used to possess firearms to protect their holdings, but times have changed.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association vice-president Ruth Webb-Smith said police did not understand the necessity of handguns to remote workers.
“We live in pretty isolated areas in the bush and we’ve had these handguns as a management tool for the last 100 years,” she said. “When you see injured stock or you need to be protected from stock, if you’re bull catching, it’s pretty important that you are able to have the assistance of a handgun.”
Mrs Webb-Smith, who has lobbied police over the issue, said the last people on Earth likely to use a handgun incorrectly are the pastoralists.
Gindalbie Station owner Steve Tonkin, who still has a handgun he has owned for 27 years, has been told that Kalgoorlie police have a letter requesting he turn his gun in.
“The need for a revolver is becoming greater, the thing that irritates me most is in Kalgoorlie there is probably 300 revolvers in the houses, where people go and shoot at pistol clubs,” he said.
“I want to use the revolver if I get chased by a cow, and if I’m in a dangerous situation that is caused by one of my livestock, I need to be able to try and get myself out of trouble.” Mr Tonkin said the lack of trust was “absolutely ridiculous”.
Justice Barker will deliver his decision next week.

 

http://www.ssaa.org.au/media-monitoring/2008/2008-08-02_pastoralists-angered-by-gun-purge.html

Pastoralists angered by gun purge

 

West Australian, Page: 7. Saturday, 2 August, 2008

Cattle station owners and workers throughout remote WA have become involved in a legal standoff with WA police in the State Administrative Tribunal after being stripped of their handguns and revolvers, which they say are integral to working and living on the land.
Lawyer Ross Williamson, who is representing the group, said police had taken guns from dozens of people in the past 18 months, including some who worked in water where crocodiles lived and mining prospectors who travelled down shafts into pits full of snakes.
The first case involving Pilbara station owner John Anick was heard by Justice Michael Barker at the SAT on Thursday Mr Williamson said his clients had to deal with wild and aggressive cattle and the police argument for revoking the gun licences was “they don ‘t need them”.
“My clients are all people who have got stories of being attacked while working,” he said.
Mr Williamson said most of the men had had the guns for up to 20 years and were bewildered as to why they were being taken from them under laws introduced after Martin Bryant shot dead 35 people at Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1996.
Det-Sen Sgt Shane Atkins said police had taken handguns and licences from about 400 people.
He said legislation no longer provided for pastoralists to have handguns but that the group were not being targeted.
“Some of these people have had firearms for quite a period of time but it is not in compliance with what legislation says at this point in time,” Sen Sgt Shane Atkins said. “It’s a regroup on a number of different levels, we are not just looking specifically at pastoralists.
“Jewellers, for example, 20 or 30 years ago used to possess firearms to protect their holdings, but times have changed.”
Pastoralists and Graziers Association vice-president Ruth Webb-Smith said police did not understand the necessity of handguns to remote workers.
“We live in pretty isolated areas in the bush and we’ve had these handguns as a management tool for the last 100 years,” she said. “When you see injured stock or you need to be protected from stock, if you’re bull catching, it’s pretty important that you are able to have the assistance of a handgun.”
Mrs Webb-Smith, who has lobbied police over the issue, said the last people on Earth likely to use a handgun incorrectly are the pastoralists.
Gindalbie Station owner Steve Tonkin, who still has a handgun he has owned for 27 years, has been told that Kalgoorlie police have a letter requesting he turn his gun in.
“The need for a revolver is becoming greater, the thing that irritates me most is in Kalgoorlie there is probably 300 revolvers in the houses, where people go and shoot at pistol clubs,” he said.
“I want to use the revolver if I get chased by a cow, and if I’m in a dangerous situation that is caused by one of my livestock, I need to be able to try and get myself out of trouble.” Mr Tonkin said the lack of trust was “absolutely ridiculous”.
Justice Barker will deliver his decision next week.

 

 

Pepper Spray, now OK

Hall v Collins

The possession of pepper spray by individuals for self-defence subject to a "reasonable excuse" test has been legal in Western Australia following the landmark Supreme Court decision in Hall v Collins [2003] WASCA 74 (4 April 2003). Mr Hall was represented by Mr WILLIAMSON in the appeal which was successful and had the original decision overturned.  

Ross Williamson B Juris, Ll B
Barrister and Solicitor