Proctor : September 2017
10 PROCTOR | September 2017 WITH THE LLM (APPLIED LAW) YOUR PRACTICE Master ENROL ONLINE: collaw.edu.au/alp / 1300 506 402 / firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT SEMESTER COMMENCES 19 FEBRUARY 2018 – NATHANAEL KITINGAN SPECIAL COUNSEL, MACPHERSON KELLEY & LLM (APPLIED LAW) GRADUATE I would highly recommend The College of Law masters. Not only is it very practical, but it’s taught well and it’s immediately applicable to one’s day to day practice. Tough bail talk not about soft judiciary by Tony Keim Nothing lights up talkback radio switchboards or sharpens the hatchet of newspaper editorial writers more than stories about criminals perceived to have been given a better-than-fair hearing or ruling by way of sentence from a ‘soft touch’ member of the judiciary. In more than 25 years of news reporting – covering court and crime – nothing quite seemed to get my news bosses steamed as much as the perception of offenders getting a ‘rap over the knuckles’ or a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’. Of course nothing about the judicial process is quite as simple as that. In truth, if journalists were given sufficient column centimetres or air-time to properly report court stories and sentences it would require up to four or five pages of a tabloid or 30 minutes of a nightly news bulletin. No one particularly wants to invest that much time and effort into immersing themselves in the finer details of a case – no matter how controversial. For instance, in mid-2009 I was told by court staff while in my role as a Supreme and District Court reporter for The Courier-Mail that so-called American ‘honeymoon killer’ David ‘Gabe’ Watson was voluntarily returning from his home in the United States to plead guilty to the manslaughter of his wife, Christina, while scuba-diving on their honeymoon in north Queensland in October 2003. There had been saturation national coverage of the case during the five or so years since Christina’s death, with most sectors of the media and talkback radio shock-jocks and their audiences demanding that Watson be charged with his wife’s murder. What seemed to be lost on casual observers up to then was that, on the best evidence police and prosecutors could assemble, all they could charge Watson with was manslaughter. Justice Peter Lyons accepted Watson’s plea to the lesser charge in June 2009 and sentenced him to 41⁄2 years’ jail, suspended after 12 months. Needless to say the ensuing outrage was brutal and aimed squarely at Justice Lyons for the perceived light sentence. I was directed – under instructions from my editorial leaders – for three days to angle my stories – which all ran either on the front page or near to it – toward the soft sentence imposed. It wasn’t until the fourth day that my chief- of-staff (now a News Limited editor) asked me what other stories I could produce to maintain the outrage generated against Watson and the bench. I informed him one story I had written was yet to be published – despite having been written days earlier. This was the actual Crown prosecution case that was laid out in full to Justice Lyons. About 15 minutes after I filed that story my chief was back on the phone saying these very telling words: “We can’t publish this story. It makes Gabe Watson look innocent.” If that was not enough – when Watson was finally returned to the US after serving his prison term at Ipswich’s Borallon Correctional Centre, he was charged with his wife’s murder after an ongoing media campaign. But, when the case was finally brought before a US jury and the prosecution case put, those same detractors seemed to totally disappear from the moral high-ground when the presiding judge dismissed the charges based on the non-existent evidence relied upon. So bad was the prosecution case that the judge would not allow it to even be placed in the hands of the jury for consideration.