Something to get the chat going for the weekend
Baden-Clay murder trial: Large crowds in court evidence of a healthy legal system, top barrister says
The murder trial of Gerard Baden-Clay has seen a ticketing system introduced to prevent overcrowding
The high level of public interest in the Gerard Baden-Clay trial is nothing out of the ordinary, and in fact makes for a healthy legal system, a top barrister says.
The former real estate agent’s murder trial attracted crowds to the Brisbane Supreme Court, with extra courtrooms opened for people who queued day after day to gain entry, and a ticketing system introduced to prevent overcrowding.
The Department of Justice and Attorney-General says these special arrangements for large-scale trials are made to ensure openness and transparency in the justice system.
This transparency is key to keeping Australia’s legal apparatus – everyone from police to barristers and judges – held to account, says Ken Fleming, QC.
Mr Fleming was the defence barrister for former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel and has worked as a United Nations prosecutor on international war crimes trials.
“Everyone should be held accountable for what they’re doing, and the open scrutiny of it is a very important thing,” he said.
“You just can’t have things going on behind closed doors, because that engenders fear of the unknown.”
Mr Fleming says the “whole delivery of justice” depends on high levels of public interest, because people can see and understand the process.
Seeing mystery unravel part of appeal, barrister says
The courts are not, however, in danger of turning into another form of entertainment – rather, they always have been.
“You only have to think about the French Revolution and the guillotining in the forecourt of the Notre Dame,” Mr Fleming said.
Although some people may attend just to see a mystery unravel, he believes many also have a genuine interest in watching the ins and outs of the legal process.
There might be some prurient interest as well, but I think that’s not the major reason people are there.
Ken Fleming, QC
“You only have to look at some of the British television programs to see how we love a good murder mystery,” he said.
“There might be some prurient interest as well, but I think that’s not the major reason people are there.
“They just have a genuine interest in what’s going on.”
Glen Cranny, a defence lawyer and partner at Gilshenan and Luton Lawyers, also believes a high level of public interest is healthy for the criminal justice system generally.
“People might come for any number of reasons, and some might come for mawkish reasons,” he said.
“Nevertheless, I think the benefits of having an open and transparent system … far outweigh any perverse interest some people may get out of such proceedings.”
Public pressure witnesses face may discourage some: lawyer
Publicity and public interest in a case can also encourage other complainants or witnesses to come forward and give evidence, where they may have otherwise been unaware or not confident enough.
“Rolf Harris‘s case in England, for example, involved people who were coming forward as complainants once they, I think, had the courage that there were protections and systems in place for their story to be told,” Mr Cranny said.
But this benefit has a flip-side: that very publicity could make people apprehensive about revealing their story.
“I think there is a tipping point where some people might think they could do without their face or name being splashed on TV as a witness, or as a complainant,” Mr Cranny said.
“They would be happy to be involved in the process in a low-key way, but don’t want to be engaged … in anything that might in some way feel like a circus to them.”
Reputational issues should also be factored in, especially when a person’s conduct, while lawful, may not hold them in a good light.
“We’ve seen in a recent high-profile case … a lot of focus on extra-marital affairs and so on,” Mr Cranny said.
“There are people who are involved in those relationships, who haven’t broken the law, but have become very prominent just through their personal lives.”
Mr Fleming says that while public interest could make some people “a bit reluctant”, he had not seen any evidence of public attendance impacting on witnesses.
“It is on display and in a sense it’s theatre,” he said.
“But once people are resigned to the fact that they will be giving evidence, I don’t think too much stands in their way.”
Opening additional courtrooms and keeping the public away from “where the action is happening” also means witnesses are only faced with a very small and confined audience in the main court, Mr Fleming said.
All previous threads and history including trial can be found clicking on link below http://aussiecriminals.com.au/category/gerard-baden-clay/
List of Trial Witnesses as they appear here
ANY EVIDENCE LIKE PHOTOS, VIDEO OR DOCUMENTS THE COURT RELEASES TO THE PUBLIC WILL BE PUBLISHED in the GBC Documents Page
Brisbane Supreme Court Justice John Byrne has asked a jury to retire to consider a verdict in the trial of Gerard Baden-Clay.