Edited by Stephen P. Banks
Chapter 12: Making a Place for the Practice of Dissenting
Robyn Penman DISSENT IN THE MODERN WORLD It’s Just Not On We don’t think much of dissent in the modern world. Indeed, it has become increasingly apparent to me that some powerful elements in our society are actively seeking to silence dissent. As I was writing this chapter, two signiﬁcant political events occurred that demonstrated quite markedly our current attitude to dissent – at least the attitudes of those in power in Australia. First, the New South Wales state government removed the requirement for unanimous jury verdicts in criminal trials. Previously in NSW jurors in criminal trials were required to reach unanimous verdicts. But on 10 November, 2005, the NSW Attorney-General declared he would change this to accept a majority verdict of 11 to 1 in criminal trials. This ﬂew in the face of the High Court arguments and a Law Reform Commission review. Learned legal opinion had it that unanimous verdicts were justiﬁed on the grounds of historical legacies, legal principles and the rule of law. But despite the learned legal opinion, it was clear that unanimous verdicts were not justiﬁed administratively, especially in terms of so-called ineﬃciencies and failures. When the change was ﬁrst proposed it was claimed that up to 10 percent of criminal trials in NSW will fail because the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict. When I read that claim, it struck me that something was very odd and I pondered it for some time. Why is the trial a...
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