Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Perception and reality in the criminal justice system

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  • Rex Widerstrom, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You might still enjoy the show we did record last night – Chief Judge Russell Johnson was particularly good value.

    I did indeed, and as was David Lomas. There's a similar effort to what I understand his series to have been, on screen in Australia now - "On Trial". Anyone who knows proxies (and can thus bypass the geoblock) might want to go to the ABC's iview site and have a look.

    Judge Russell's comments echoed those of many other jurists, including recently retired WA Chief District Court Judge Antoinette Kennedy, who noted:

    Once you can have people more frightened of disorder than tyranny, it enables you to do almost anything you like so far as legislation is concerned. It's also cheap, you see it's very or it was until very recently very cheap and it doesn't require any leadership to say we're going to increase all penalties and we're going to lock everybody up longer...

    The problem, of course, is that the McVicar cheer squad will dismiss such sentiments as being those of out-of-touch elitists who have degrees ferchrissakes, and thus no idea of what's truly right or wrong. And lawyers, well... they're just rorting Legal Aid while waiting to be made a judge.

    More effective in changing perceptions is what David Lomas alluded to... introduce criminals (or those stereotyping suggests are criminals) to "ordinary" people, who very quickly find that the crims are very ordinary and often quite sympathetic and certainly not the red-in-tooth-and-claw monsters McVicar tells us are outside our windows.

    I have a friend who's a mild manner, bespectacled academic and a world authority on Restorative Justice. Bravely, he tells people he's a "convict criminologist" to make the point that not everyone who's been to prison is a monster, and nor do they all reoffend. Likewise I've had some wonderful encounters which have gone:

    Person: "All prisoners are scum, and they remain scum after their release".
    Me: "I've been a prisoner, actually".
    Person: *look of horrified confusion* "Errr well, except you, obviously".
    Me: "I was in on remand. Actually half the people in Perth's main prison are on remand, and the majority of them actually walk free when they finally get to court. So they're....?"
    Person: "Is that the time?! I'm late for... something..."

    Hence my enthusiasm for the Wormwood Scrubs idea, and anything else (like "On Trial") that shows crimes for the usually complex and quite nuanced events they are and accused, and convicted, people as being just as varied and multifaceted as the audience.

    Failing that, I'd like a debate with McVicar. Kim Workman is both erudite and admirable, but too bloody polite when the bullshit starts to flow!!

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Rex Widerstrom,

    Failing that, I’d like a debate with McVicar. Kim Workman is both erudite and admirable, but too bloody polite when the bullshit starts to flow!!

    Better still, what about the Arthur Allan Thomases of this world, and anyone else who's suffered due to miscarriages of justice? On the other hand, it seems futile to debate with fundies, because they profit from a black-and-white world view. So maybe the best thing for it is to expose their hypocrisy in front of them.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Peter Ellis, anybody?

    There are still gross injustices in our legal system-

    Only a black & white view of our world - and they dont actually even like it!

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Islander,

    There are still gross injustices in our legal system-

    This confession was a turn up for the book

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

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