This week the Crimes Amendment (Protection of Criminal Defence Lawyers) Bill 2022 was passed amending current laws protecting public juridical officials, to now protect criminal defence lawyers.
The Impetus – Police Officers Found to have Intimidated a Solicitor
In 2021, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) branded the actions of a group of police officers from Strike Force Raptor as “deliberate, deceitful and malicious” after investigations into the harassment and intimidation of a criminal defence solicitor.
In short, the LECC found that two police officers from Strike Force Raptor were instructed by their sergeant to ensure that a solicitor representing an alleged bikie “doesn’t made it to court”. Amongst other things, the two police officers proceeded to wait outside the solicitor’s home, fined the solicitor for not using an indicator as he reversed out of his driveway, and issued a defect notice on the solicitor’s car for leaking oil – of which it was later determined by a mechanic that there was no oil leak. The solicitor became so shaken that he was no longer able to represent his client due to the harassment and intimidation by the two officers.
What Does This Bill Actually Mean for Criminal Defence Solicitors?
As the name suggests, the introduction of the Crimes Amendment (Protection of Criminal Defence Lawyers) Bill 2022 will provide greater protection to criminal defence lawyers. Notably, the legislation will make it an offence to threaten, or cause injury or detriment to a criminal defence solicitor, with the intention of influencing the solicitors conduct in a matter. It will do this by amending the current protections contained in Sections 322 and 326 of the Crimes Act 1900.
Breaching this law will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. This reflects the serious nature of the offence.
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