Written by John Sutton
March 9, 2015
I am lucky, sure I worked for my luck, I took chances where I had the opportunity.
I am fortunate to have some very caring friends in the legal industry, people who have far more of a social conscience than I, people who remind me how lucky I am.
One friend introduced me to an organisation called International Justice Mission https://www.ijm.org and http://www.ijm.org.au. A truly remarkable organisation, a not for profit, that raises funds to place legal professionals in countries where public justice systems are broken or non-existent. They are not white knights trying to change the world, they are dedicated people who work with local government agencies to make the local system work. They are having fantastic success in breaking slavery organisations and freeing people. Did you know there are more people in slavery (sexual and bonded) today than at any time in history? Its true.
Examples of broken justice system include the case of Yuri an 8 year old girl horrifically raped and murdered in Peru where, because her parents could not afford a private lawyer to guide the public prosecutor, the prosecution of the father and son who committed the offences would not have gone ahead without the IJM. Or, in Nairobi, Kenya, where the police will only accept the evidence of one doctor in sexual assault cases, in a city where thousands of rapes occur each year. The wait time to get to the doctor is weeks and his evidence is crucial to a prosecution. Not many prosecutions happen. See “The Locust Effect” Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros, Oxford University Press, 2014. The book is littered with examples of broken justice systems and events, that to us in first world countries, should be unthinkable.
The book also raises the point that when colonialists set up their policing systems they chose a method that protected the haves, not the system that thankfully exists in (most of) the first world, of protection for all. Interestingly, as nations have freed themselves from the clutches of colonialism it appears not one has re-engineered their policing systems. They continue to be the protectors of the elites. The elites have money and buy the law they need to protect themselves.
Another friend has highlighted to me the recent cuts to the Aboriginal Legal Service, about 15% of their total budget. This is a service vital to the public justice system of Australia, particularly in the bush. She wrote yesterday “….well cuts about to hit. I’ll find out next week if I have a job.” The stories she has recited to me are truly distressing, dismaying and disturbing. The lack of justice, and I’m not getting into the whole land rights saga, is going to ensure the gap between aboriginals and whites continues to expand, in current parlance, we will not “be bridging the gap.”
Haugen’s IJM book was powerful enough to read on its own but it talks about countries far away and problems we’ll never have to deal with in Australia. But….I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Some of the cases I have helped and advised on involving my friends practice whilst in the ALS would not have seen the light of day in any city. For some reason though there seems to be a different standard in the country. I shudder to think what it will be like without my friend, and many other dedicated legal practitioners, to stand up and fight the battles for the underprivileged of our society.
The cuts to the ALS funding and all public justice are so short sighted. The cuts will lead to more trials, more people appearing for themselves, longer running matters taking more court resources, more witnesses. Of course, with NSW having a record number of prisoners at this time, we can expect that population to increase as well.
Whats my point? Some times we need to spend in the short term to save in the long term.