New protections against threats and reprisals to criminal defence lawyers
Defence lawyers will have the same criminal law protections as public justice officials against injury, detriment and threats, after new laws passed the NSW Parliament last night.
Attorney General Mark Speakman said defence lawyers play a critical role in supporting the justice system and should have the same protections as prosecutors in undertaking this work.
“Every person has the right to a fair trial, and to the presumption of innocence until found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a court,” Mr Speakman said.
“Defence lawyers support those key tenets of justice by putting the prosecution to proof. It is important that defence lawyers are free from threats, intimidation and reprisals, to uphold their duties to the court, the justice system and to their clients.
“The Crimes Amendment (Protection of Criminal Defence Lawyers) Bill 2022 passed by the Parliament will extend existing protections for public justice officials, like prosecutors, to criminal defence lawyers.”
The reforms make it an offence for a person who, without reasonable cause:
- threatens to do or cause, or does or causes, an injury or detriment to a person intending to influence a person's conduct as an Australian legal practitioner acting for a defendant in a criminal matter or in connection with criminal proceedings; or
- threatens to do or cause, or does or causes, an injury or detriment to a person on account of anything lawful done by the person as an Australian legal practitioner acting for a defendant in a criminal matter or in connection with criminal proceedings.
These offences carry a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment.
“These reforms illustrate the NSW Government's commitment to supporting frontline workers in all sectors, including our justice system and the legal profession,” Mr Speakman said.
“These offences were carefully drafted to ensure they don’t criminalise legitimate conduct, such as making a complaint about a lawyer to a professional body or ending a retainer.
“Existing criminal offences, such as intimidation or perverting the course of justice, will continue to apply to threatening conduct against any lawyer, regardless of the type of matter or which court they are appear in.”