The Tyranny Of “Justice”

Any nation that denies justice to its citizens is, by definition, a tyrannical nation.  And if you agree with that idea, then I think you’d have to conclude that Australia has become one such tyrant.

A young man called Tom Kelly recently stepped out for a night on the town with his girlfriend.  He was walking along a street, holding her hand and chatting on his mobile phone, when a person who he didn’t even know ended his life.  The same person attacked four other people that night …people unknown to the assailant and apparently for the same reason that Tom was attacked.  The reason was apparently that the attacker just ‘felt like it’  The other victims were more ‘fortunate’ than young Tom. Their injuries weren’t fatal.

Our Law Courts, the guardians of Law, Order and decency have just finished hearing this matter and the family of Tom Kelly, already struggling to come to terms with the loss of their beloved family member, were dealt a second round of torture, compliments of the Australian Justice System.

Having lost their son to a senseless, cold blooded act of murder, they were then subjected to the horror of learning that, in Australia, there is no justice for decent citizens,  Justice in Australia is reserved for criminals and the wealthy.

Having watered down the murder charge to one of manslaughter (by what contortion of justice could this FIFTH unprovoked physical assault on total strangers on that one single night, be considered anything but murder?) the perpetrator was sentenced to a total jail term that will see him eligible for parole after four years.

Four years loss of freedom, for five unprovoked physical assaults on persons unknown to the assailant and for killing in the most mindless, callous and cowardly way imaginable.  I doubt that Tom Kelly’s family will have even begun to come to terms with Tom’s loss when they learn that his killer has been released from custody and is free to do it all again.

Right now, there is a groundswell of opinion within the community, that justice has been denied and that something must be done to correct a justice system which no longer serves the society that it is supposed to help protect.  But human nature being what it is, most of the concerned citizens will have moved on to the next momentary sensation and those who carry the burden of a real desire to improve our society will be faced with the seemingly impossible task of reforming a legal system that is so institutionalized and so entrenched as to be (if you’ll pardon the pun) above the law.

This society demands transparency in commercial and political arenas. The performance of politicians is constantly subjected to scrutiny and review by their electorates and regular elections ensure that non-performers can be removed and replaced.  In commerce, the performance of business leaders are weighed and measured by their financial results.  Only those who deliver what they are employed for, get to hold their place within the system.  Even Public Servants are nowadays held more accountable and subjected to more public scrutiny than in the past, albeit that getting rid of non-performers perhaps remains problematic.

Only within the so-called legal system, do we see a section of society that considers itself to be above and beyond the strictures placed upon the rest of society.  Performance is never weighed, outcomes are never questioned and access to justice is beyond the financial resources of ordinary people (unless you happen to be a criminal, in which case, the public will pay and pay and pay to ensure that you have access to appropriate legal representation).

In bygone days, we saw a legal system that heartlessly dealt out justice to poor people, and vigorously protected the rights of the rich.  So we saw people transported for seven years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed their families.  And upon those noble roots, our current legal system continues to thrive.  Only where once, justice was overly severe to the poor and immorally gentle on the rich, nowadays its emphasis is shifted.  Violent crime now seems to enjoy a similar level of privilege to that previously afforded the wealthy.  Is that because the public purse is now opened to the noble practitioners of the legal profession?  The only area of the law that seems to maintain the old tradition of severity and financial unaffordability, is that of minor matters involving decent citizens!

Until and unless we, as a society, can reform the legal system itself, to make it accountable to the people which it is there to serve, we will never be served by it with anything resembling justice.  Currently, our legal system serves only itself.

I dream of a day when our courts, like our Parliaments, are held accountable by the people.  Where individual judges are accountable for the outcomes of their decisions, just as a business leader is accountable for the fortunes of his company or a politician is accountable for his performance.  A judicial system where tenure is based upon performance and not on some antiquated ‘old boys’ system that is beyond the scrutiny of the people.

Our judicial system repeatedly demonstrates its inability to serve the society that is paying for it.  And yet we sit by and do nothing.  With every twisted and contorted decision like that which we’ve seen in the Tom Kelly case, we shriek and gasp and scream foul.  And then we move on and forget about it until the next time.  And as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, next time won’t be long in coming.

While we sit on our hands and do nothing to help achieve a revamp of our legal system, we all bear a share of the responsibility for the grief and the anguish of Tom Kelly’s family and for the victims, past and (near) future of senseless, violent crime.

Andrew Caddle 2013-11-10


As an aside to this particular case, I recalled that not very long ago, there was a similar case where a seasonal worker was ‘king hit’ and killed in the town of Sheffield, in Northern Tasmania.  The sentence was, as I recall, similarly ludicrous and there was public outrage at the time.  When I tried to google the case, to get additional material for this article (I think its clear that powder-puff punishments are doing nothing to deter this kind of mindless crime) I could find no reference to the case at all.  I am guessing that the perpetrator is free already and that the legal system has taken steps to protect his identity and cover up his crime.  Perhaps I am wrong.  I’m sure the friends of the victim still remember though!


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