​Labor-Greens must address concerns surrounding judge-alone trials


Labor and the Greens need to address significant concerns raised by the legal profession whether laws passed allowing judges to order supreme court trials to proceed without a jury during COVID-19 restrictions breached the constitutional power of the ACT Government.

Opposition Leader and Shadow Attorney General, Elizabeth Lee said the Canberra Liberals moved amendments to the Bill when passed in April last year, at the time raising significant concerns about this very issue and calling on the Government to bring the ACT’s bill in line with its NSW counterpart.

“We argued that an order to hold a judge-alone trial without the consent of the accused could breach fundamental human rights,” Ms Lee said.

“The NSW model which we called for at the time struck the right balance where the court must be satisfied the accused person has sought and received proper legal advice.

“We also raised that any legal decision made under this law could be appealed, potentially to higher courts creating more delays than awaiting a jury trial would.”

The questions surrounding the judge only laws come as a paper published in the journal Current Issues in Criminal Justice found the ACT Government likely beached its constitutional power and showed the risk of legislative overreach in a crisis.

The paper said an order to hold a judge-alone trial without the consent of the accused could violate the Kable doctrine, by changing the mode of trial in the supreme court.

“This is yet another example of Labor and the Greens making policy on the run without any real consultation with the legal profession and thinking they know best,” Ms Lee concluded.