A SENIOR judge has passionately defended criminal lawyers and accused Premier Campbell Newman of being “ill-informed’’ about how the legal system works.
Supreme Court Justice Peter Applegarth told a jury hearing the case against an alleged murderer not to think less of the defence team just because politicians had made disparaging remarks about criminal lawyers.
Mr Newman shocked the legal community last week when he labelled lawyers who represented bikies as “hired guns”.
“They take money from people who sell drugs to our teenagers and young people. Yes, everybody’s got a right to be defended under the law, but you’ve got to see that for what it is,” he said.
“They are part of the criminal gang machine and they will see, say and do anything to defend their clients and try and get them off, or indeed progress their sort of case, their dishonest case.”
While Justice Applegarth did not name Mr Newman during his several-minute speech, he called him a “prominent politician”.
“Before we resume the trial I want to say something that isn’t particularly to do with this trial, but may help you with your jury service if any of you are on another jury in another case,” Justice Applegarth said on Friday, the day after Mr Newman’s comments.
“You may have read some comments in the media in which a prominent politician described some defence lawyers as hired guns who are paid by criminal gangs.
``And I’m pleased to say that in this country we have, with very rare exceptions, lawyers who will put their duty to the court and their duty to justice higher than the interests of their clients and winning a case.
“Private barristers, you’ve all seen their names in the papers.
“They’re hired by the state government or the federal government, and so the hired gun label can apply to them as much as to lawyers who defend cases brought by the state.
``Those criminal defence lawyers who are paid by their clients, like the lawyers who prosecute cases for money, are professionally distanced from the people who pay them.
``So if you happen to serve on another jury, or another trial, during your jury service in the next week or two, or in years to come, and there’s a defence lawyer who’s defending someone accused of fraud, tax evasion, drug offences – then don’t be swayed by the idea that they’re part of a fraudulent scheme or they’re part of a tax evasion conspiracy or they’re part of a drug gang or a gang machine or something like that. That’s just nonsense.
``First and foremost, you shouldn’t think like that, because it would ignore the presumption of innocence against someone who’s charged with an offence.
``And if, in the future, you’re acting as a juror in a different trial, ignore ill-informed comments about hired guns, comments which smear hard-working professionals who are doing their duty.’’