Passing Bull 341 – Another day at The Age

It is not fair of Nine.  On Mondays, we can get Downer in the AFR and Brandis in The Age.  Today in The Age, George is on about Gough.  A mate said that is like asking a child to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  That is a clean 10.  Straight to the pool room.

There is a piece on the Lehrmann trial by Julia Quilter, an associate professor in the School of Law at the University of Wollongong.  The writer looks at the trial from her perspective ‘as a researcher of sexual assault trials for the past 20-plus years.’  And also from the perspective that ‘40 years on, the mission to transform sexual assault trials, and rid them of rape myths that work profoundly to the disadvantage of victims of sexual violence, remains unfinished.’  The question then is: How do you reduce the disadvantage to the complainant in one sort of case, and not others, without at the same time working to the disadvantage of the accused? 

You do not have to be Sir Owen Dixon to know that experience of forensic contests tells us that one story is good until the other story is told.  (That’s from memory.  You get the same in the Bible.)  The complainant says one thing.  The accused says she is lying.  The law says that his case has to be put fairly and squarely to the complainant in the witness box – otherwise the judge gets very angry.  But that does not look to be the perspective from which this piece is written.

Take one example.  The writer is concerned that in ‘an estimated 50% of sexual assault cases, the complainant’s intoxication is a familiar line of defence scrutiny’, the suggestion being that ‘the complainant cannot be said to be a reliable witness’ – even though the fact is that ‘the scientific research literature shows that a witness who was drunk at the time of the events is no less likely to be inaccurate about central issues, even if their recall about peripheral details is imperfect’. 

The Wollongong lawyer is briefed to appear for a man charged with attempted murder.  Her instructions are that a critical witness against her client was seriously drunk at all relevant times.  Counsel for the Crown objects to cross-examination about sobriety, and refers to the scientific research literature.  That could not happen.  What if the indictment also alleges rape and the witness is the complainant?

The Lehrmann trial was very sad for all involved.  I am yet to hear a clear analysis by a disinterested person with the relevant expertise about how it could have been determined more fairly and decently.

A few pages on in the paper, we get Abbie Chatfield.  Abbie is a ‘TV, radio, and internet personality.’  She has a dog called Mr Handsome Walter.  She gets most of her news from TikTok and Instagram.  Her guilty streaming pleasure is ‘obviously Real Housewives’.  What’s the vice Abbie wishes she could give up?  ‘Sleeping with toxic people…’

Well, no one should accuse The Age of being cloistered. 

I am doddering to the time when I will join the Wolf looking for kangaroos that do not exist in Wombat Forest, but there are some things down here I will not miss.

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