ACT News


Rights act is going wrong: prosecutor

Rapists, wife-beaters and car thieves are using the ACT's human rights legal framework to deny their victims fair legal processes, according to a senior Canberra prosecutor.

Veteran prosecutor Shane Drumgold says the Human Rights Act is being used to put the rights of accused criminals before those of their victims and makes it easier for alleged offenders to manipulate the courts.

Mr Drumgold, writing in The Canberra Times on Wednesday, says that the Human Rights Act had made prison ''much less of a deterrent today, as regular human rights reviews try to make it as close to not being in prison as possible''.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions employee, who stressed he was expressing his own views rather than those of his employer, took aim at the legislation introduced by the territory in 2004, Victoria following suit two years later.

Mr Drumgold writes that human rights legislation has been regularly used to overcome statutory presumptions against bail and to defeat moves to force defence lawyers to outline their cases before trials begin.

''An offender's ability to manipulate the legal system is greater,'' he says.


''It seems an accused rapist is more human than their victim, who has steeled themselves psychologically for up to two years to give evidence against the person they most fear, only to turn up and have the trial vacated for another two years because the accused discloses their wish to challenge portions of the evidence for the first time on the morning of the trial, as they are entitled to do at present.''

The lawyer says that he cannot see what the laws have done to improve the treatment of victims of crime.

''It is difficult … to see what human rights legislation has done for the child cowering in their bedroom while his drunken father beats his mother again while on human rights-compliant bail for beating his mother last time,'' Mr Drumgold writes.

''Or the struggling family to have their home broken into and their only TV stolen and pawned for the day's heroin hit. Or the teenager who worked double shifts for two years to save for a car, only to have it stolen a week after he bought it for a one-hour joyride then burnt out because the offender couldn't be bothered wiping their fingerprints off.''

Mr Drumgold describes the impact of the Human Rights Act on the territory's criminal justice system as a ''one-way tap''.

''There is no corresponding human obligation to balance the offender's human rights,'' he writes. ''It is a one-way tap that is turned on and off according to the values of the judicial officer, no doubt influenced by the quality and cost of the arguments presented before them.

''In practice, the human victim doesn't feature in the human rights equation.

''Victims of crime are usually selected because they are vulnerable.

''How, then, can shifting more rights from the victim to the accused be defined as promoting human rights?"