Law Spot

 

Interested in the law and what’s going on around you, but find it all a bit confusing? Intrigued by the legal antics of other countries?

Law Spot is a regular column written by our legal current affairs experts. They’ve got a knack of explaining the law without the froth. Try them out.

 

Putting Tyrants on Trial

We have now seen Saddam Hussein in his first court appearance. What’s in store for him, and what rights should he have? We take a hard look at the law and prosecution of war crimes.

Blood transfusion confusion
Who can refuse medical treatment and when is consent required? What about when it’s a matter of life and death? A recent incident involving a Jehovah’s Witnesses required an examination of these issues.
Censorship on the net
The Federal Government has stepped into the online censorship debate with a provocative piece of legislation. All sides disagree – we take a long hard look at it all.
Clinton – a lawyer looks back
Now that we’ve heard from La Monica, let’s look back at what really happened and what they should have done – from an Australian point of view.
Clinton’s law
Clinton’s in hot water again. How did it get this far? Who is to blame? And what kind of legal system allows a faithless friend to secretly tape intimate conversations in order to prosecute a President? This Lawspot Special Report untangles the legal web. We also provide a link to the Starr report.
 
The court strikes back
The Attorney-General takes a swipe at outspoken judges. Should judges be allowed to have their say? Should the politicians protect the good name of the courts? Who’s right, who’s wrong? Read on.
 
Crime does pay
A Supreme Court Judge aborts a murder retrial because of allegedly prejudicial information on an internet site. Can anyone get a fair trial in the age of the internet?
The dating game
It’s a harsh world on the dating circuit, where looks and charm often count for more than we would like. But are we all equal before the law?
Death in Saudi
An Australian nurse dies in grisly circumstance in the Middle East. Claims and counter claims fly as a different style of justice is put on trial.
Defamation – sticks and stones
The Abbott and Costello case has all the makings of one of the most notorious court cases in recent times. But what does it all mean, and what does the law offer a person who claims to have been injured by way of the printed page? Get all the information you need right here.
In defence of Microsoft
Microsoft is every computer user’s whipping boy. We look at the law that has brought them undone – and yes, we jump to their defence!
DNA – Do Not Accept
A whole town agrees to be DNA tested in the pursuit of justice. Some of us wonder whether this is the right direction for a democratic society. We take a sober look at the issues.
Double jeopardy
Do the crime and do the time – but what if you do the crime and don’t do the time? Should the prosecution be able to have another shot at you, even if you’ve been acquitted once already?
Domaszewicz – the law on trial
Gregory Domaszewicz is not guilty of the murder of 14 month old Jaidyn Leskie. In conversations around a thousand water coolers, people question whether justice was done. In this month’s Lawspot we examine the evidence and draw some conclusions of our own.
The drunk defence
You get so drunk you don’t know you’ve committed a crime – does that mean you’re not guilty of the crime? Believe it or not, you might just get away with it!
Euthanasia debate heats up
This month’s Lawspot deals with the case of Nancy Crick, who gathered supporters and friends to witness her death. Does the law against assisted suicide make sense?.
Family Court decides where children live
Should a divorced parent with custody be allowed to take a child interstate if it will be difficult for the other parent to remain in touch? The Family Court decides.
Father’s day at the Family Court 
The Family Court revisits the rights of children to live near both divorced parents – can a mother take her children to live overseas against the wishes of the father.
Gas Crisis – to the law we go
An explosion in gas plant in rural Victoria causes widespread disruptions in the Australian economy and a rude awakening to cold showers. What legal remedies are available?
Genetic gymnastics
It’s not all rosy in the Genome garden. A precautionary look at the potential abuses
Geoff Clark’s media trial
Was it right to publish allegations against ATSIC Chair Geoff Clark, or is he the victim of trial by media. Check it out in this month’s Lawspot.
The GG & the law
Who’s to blame for the crisis over the Governor-General? This month we look at the issues and come to some surprising conclusions.
Grisham v Gleeson
What is it that draws millions to popular legal culture? And what does it mean for online legal information providers?
Gun control – an Austalian perspective
Another American child is dead because a friend, a child himself, gained access to a gun. Why do Americans allow so many guns to circulate, and why doesn’t the law simply forbid the proliferation of these weapons. We take an Australian perspective.
Guilty…or not?
Two recent court cases highlight the vagaries of the criminal law. Can you be guilty of a crime committed by another person, or even your pet dogs? And can women be excused of murder after years of spousal abuse?
High Court rules on state taxes
It’s a bad day at the office for State Governments when the High Court rules against their favourite taxes. How did it come to this?
HIV & footy – the umpire decides
A landmark case in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal sets the standard for thinking about HIV, sport and discrimination. We take a detailed look at the real issues.
The insurance crisis
Many businesses and community organisations cannot get the insurance they need to continue their activities. Should we legislate to stop potential litigants, or is it time the community took responsibility for their own actions?
The International Criminal Court
There are critics galore at the establishment of an International Criminal Court. Are they right? In this month’s Lawspot we look at the world’s latest international Court.
The IVF dilema
The front pages are full of indignation and joy at a Court’s decision to make assisted conception and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) available to other than married or de facto heterosexual couples. Make up your own mind
Jury finds Oklahoma bomber guilty
An American veteran of Desert Storm starts a war of his own with devastating consequences. Now it’s the jury’s turn to take command
Juries – are we all agreed?
There is a movement towards the acceptance of majority verdicts in serious criminal cases. Is this the way we want to be judged by our peers? Is it time to take a closer look at the jury system? We examine the issues.
The Kirby aftermath
Last month saw an attack on High Court Justice Michael Kirby. At the end of the day he was the only participant in this sorry episode with his dignity intact.
The law of war
Australian soldiers have left our shores. So does the law have any place in the conduct of war, and what may be the unanticipated consequences of a crackdown against terrorists? We look for some answers.
Life from death

A Canberra woman asks the court to take sperm from her deceased husband. She succeeds – but where to from here?

Of life, sport & the Law
We’re always hearing media allegations of misbehaviour, and in the sporting arena the umpires impose penalties for offences that do not withstand later investigations. What happened to the presumption of innocence? We ask the hard questions.
Mabo & Wik – will they stick?
It’s been the main game on the talkback lines for a long time now, but do we really understand the issues raised by Wik and Mabo? A short tour through a minefield.
The McVeigh muddle
Timothy McVeigh is back in the news, but this time it’s the prosecution that is the loser. It’s time to take a hard look at capital punishment.
Medical ethics on trial
Why can’t the law deal with ethical dilemmas, and how can we make laws that deal effectively with medical research? This month we look for some common sense answers.
Microsoft vs. the world
Has Bill Gates met his match in U.S. Attorney-General Janet Reno, and the might of the Department of Justice? Is it time for Microsoft to be brought down a peg or two, or will this giant of cyberspace triumph yet again? Stay tuned.
It’s more than a game
Yet again the law has extended its long arm into our everyday lives. And although the dispute appears to concern the right of pregnant women to play netball, it’s really about a lot more.
Not copping it
A female police officer brings an action for sex discrimination against the Victorian Police. What can you do if you believe you have been sexually harassed or suffered discrimination?
O.J. – is he okay?
If media space counts for anything, it’s the crime of the decade. A football hero turns murder defendant – he gets away with it, but doubts remain.
Pinochet’s judgement day
The House of Lords has handed down its judgement on the extradition of the former Chilean leader, General Augusta Pinochet. How did it happen and what does it all mean?
Protecting privacy online 
Worried about Big Brother? Victoria goes it alone in proposing legislation to protect your privacy, whether it’s credit details online or intimate personal information held by a government agency. And you can have your say as well.
The Queen’s law
The Queen had information that led to the end of a criminal trial. Is she above the law, or should she be required to follow the same rules as the rest of us?
Refugees in crisis
The debate is no longer simmering, it is boiling over. This month we look at what the law can do to resolve the refugee crisis. Are there legal solutions that are reasonable, moral, practical and effective?
Removed or stolen – thestory remains the same
Does it matter whether Aboriginal children were “removed” or “stolen” from their homes in decades past? According to a recent front page newspaper report, it makes all the difference in the world. We take a different view
The right to silence
To speak or not to speak, that is the question. What is the right to silence, and why do some of our politicians think its time has come?
Rumpole’s last stand
This month we present the obituary of barrister Mr. Horace Rumpole, formerly of 3 Equity Court Chambers, by the Head of the Criminal Bar (reprinted with the permission of The Times).
Secret terrorist trials – right or wrong?
In times of critical danger the rules of law are often bent. Who’s right in the debate about the treatment of suspected terrorists, and should they be accorded the same legal rights as others in our criminal justice system?
She loves me, he loves me not
Looking forward to a life of marital bliss? We don’t want to pour cold water on your dreams, but maybe this is the time to look at a prenuptial agreement – or is it?
Siamese twins – a terrible choice
The lives of Siamese twins hang in the balance as the law struggles to find a resolution. We look at the Court’s terrible choice – who will live and who will die?
States want changes at the High Court
Some State Premiers are none too happy with the High Court. Is it too interventionist? Do we need a spot of constitutional surgery? Who really makes the laws in this country?
Steal a song
You wouldn’t steal a CD from a shop, would you? How about the Napster revolution, where you can achieve the same result online with impunity. How tempting is that? Is it stealing?
The stem cell debate
The stem cell debate is part of an ongoing argument about the legality of research using human embryos. We look behind the veil of jargon and ideology to get a clearer picture.
The stolen generation stakes a claim
We’re at the starting line of a case that may affect the way we look at ourselves and our history. The “stolen generation” has fired the first shot in a battle that may be as protracted as it is controversial.
Surviving Survivor
Survivor is finished, the outback adventurers are no longer, but some issues linger. Should you be able to sue the producers if you think it just wasn’t “real” enough?
Televising Courts
The gavel drops, the judge cries ‘action’. The cameras roll as we investigate the latest proposal to televise our courtrooms.
The truth about mandatory sentencing
Taking a sober look at mandatory sentencing and those who want to use it to their own ends.
The truth about the Republic debate
The facts about the Republic debate, without the hysteria.
U.S. election: Rule of law
It’s hard to believe that Americans could make such a mess of their electoral process. We apply some basic Ausssie common sense to this debacle
War crimes in East Timor
How are war crimes dealt with by the international community? What justice awaits the victims of recent atrocities in East Timor?
Who understands the law?
Having trouble getting a handle on the law? As you’ll see in this month’s Lawspot, you’re not alone.
Y2K Okay
Was the Y2K bug a big legal con? Or is it just that we are all so frightened of landing in court for our every indiscretion? We take a hard look at the millennial aftermath.