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Some study and exam tips for Year 11 Legal Studies

September 22, 2010 2 comments

My apology for this lateness.  I’m leaving the school soon and there’s always seems to be more to do in terms of transitional tasks.

Regarding the essay section (Port Arthur)

  1. Make sure you have a full understanding of the legal history of gun law reform in Australia, including attempts taken before Port Arthur massacre.
  2. While studying revision, make a quick list of all the relevant media articles.  Jot some quick notes about them.  Think about how they might be used in a legal studies essay.  You should already have media articles in your notes.  There are more on this website.
  3. When you attempt the essay during revision and exam, make sure your plan, your paragraphs and your overall essay all directly address the keywords of the given essay question.  Do not regurgitate prepared answers into the exam.
  4. When you see the essay question for the first time, read it and think.  What is the question really asking you?  Then write your plan accordingly.

Regarding the essay section (Women)

  1. Similar advise to Port Arthur.
  2. You can also get some useful media articles to use on this link to the State Library website (http://blog.sl.nsw.gov.au/hsc_legal_studies/index.cfm/Women).

Regarding other sections

  1. Individual and the Law: make sure you know about individual rights and duties.  (Click here for summary notes on Rights.)
  2. Individuals and Technology: make sure you are able to talk about some technology issues, with reference to media articles and preferably legislation or case laws.
  3. Multiple-choice: go through the revision notes for the Half-Yearly exam.
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Answers to the first set of revision questions are here …

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Sorry about the small delay. 

Here is the link to the answers for the first set of revision questions. 

If you have any comments or questions, post them here as replies, or email me at aston.kwok@det.nsw.edu.au

Study hard or else …

‘Law plan would remove juries from more trials’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 2010)

This might have profound implication for the nature of criminal justice system in the state of New South Wales.

Law plan would remove juries from more trials‘ (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 2010)

The media report centres on a parliamentary inquiry ordered by the NSW Attorney-General, John Hazistegoras, to investigate the possibility of removing juries from many types of criminal trials.  Since this is still in the realm of parliamentary inquiry, we are really swimming in the realm of speculation.  What is clear from this media report is that the current jury system needs reform.

Jury system has been an integral part of the our adversarial criminal justice system for centuries.  It is based on the long established notion that crimes are offences against the community and therefore defendants in a criminal trial should tried by a jury panel who represents the community.  Trial by jury has been regarded as a legal right that protects defendants.

However, it is becoming apparent that the current system is not working too well.

Critics say juries are overwhelmed by complex cases where there is extensive technical or scientific evidence. There are also concerns that jurors may let emotion cloud their judgment or be intimidated or bullied into a decision.

Several-high-profile trials have been aborted because jurors fell ill, looked up the case on the internet or went on their own illicit fact-finding missions.

In some circumstances, particularly if a case centres on an issue that requires the application of objective community standards, it may be more appropriate to have the trial before a jury rather than a judge alone,” Mr Hatzistergos said.

“But it may be less essential where cases are particularly long and complex and place a heavy burden on the jury.’

Jurors after all, are humans.  In fact they are mere mortals who often have no legal training apart from this provided by the court.  I am inclined to agree with some of these criticisms levelled at the current jury system in NSW.

Answers to Multiple-Choice Questions in class

May 5, 2010 1 comment

Here are the answers to  the set of 46 multiple-choice questions you were given in class.  

Link: multiple-choice -answers

Attempt the questions before you check the answers.

Categories: law and society

Revision Notes for Year 11 Legal Studies Half-Yearly Exam

May 4, 2010 1 comment

Please find here the link here to Year 11 legal studies half yearly – prep notes.

You may post follow-up comments here, or email me at aston.kwok@det.nsw.edu.au if you require further assistance.

More to come later, including:

  • Explanation of the multiple-choice questions;
  • Some practice revision questions;
  • Other miscellaneous stuff.
Categories: law and society

‘Crimes of the colony brought to trial’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 2010)

April 3, 2010 Leave a comment

A little trip down the memory lane.  Welcome to the history of criminal justice in colonial Sydney, New South Wales.

Crimes of the colony brought to trial‘ (Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 2010)

Professor Bruce Kercher and researcher Brent Salter, from Macquarie University, have for the first time compiled the goings-on in NSW’s earliest courts into a fat and entertaining tome called The Kercher Reports: Decisions of the NSW Superior Courts, 1788 to 1827.)

Sydney, Australia began as a convict colony for the convicted criminals from England.  It was not surprising that law and order was a major problem during the early years of colonial New South Wales.  The colony of New South Wales, the forerunner to the subsequent nation of Australia, was established on the legal assumption of terra nullius.  That meant that there were no prior legal system in place.  Today it is commonly accepted that this was legal fiction.  Nonetheless we must understand this in order to appreciate how the early colonial administration imposed law and order in a colony filled with convicted criminals.

The women of the First Fleet had arrived in Sydney Cove on February 6, 1788, sparking uproarious celebrations. With admirable foresight, the judge advocate, David Collins, read the Act and Letters Patent establishing the courts the following day.

The first colony in Australia inherited Crown laws of England in its fullness.  So, the first court in Sydney was an extension of English legal sovereignty into a distant colony.  Court in the early days of the colony was a very place from courts of today.

The judge advocate in charge was not legally trained, his fellow officers were soldiers or ”fit and proper persons” appointed by the governor. In the court of appeal, the governor himself – another legal amateur – presided solo over disputed decisions of the court of civil jurisdiction.

And there were no appeals from the court of criminal jurisdiction – only the governor’s mercy.

Many of the civil legal rights that we can take for granted today did not exist back then.  Death penalties and corporal punishment like lashing were dealt out for petty crimes like theft of a linen cloth and pieces of bread.  It would be decades later before court officer positions were filled with legally trained professionals.  Sydney was essentially a colony that existed under quasi-military rule, where the rule of law was only beginning to take root.

‘They are making up law on the spot. They probably didn’t have the power but they did it anyway,” says Kercher. ”It kind of says, ‘We are going to take law really seriously here, even if it’s not the English law.’ …”

So, what were the cases that typically preoccupied the early years of colonial Sydney?  There were the usual crimes like theft, assaults, sexual assaults and public drunkenness.  There was also a gradually increasing number of Aboriginal defendants, who undoubtedly had the extra difficulty of dealing with an alien legal system as well as common racism within nineteenth century England.  It is important, however, to note that at times the imposition of Crown law also protected individual Aborigines from settlers violence by recognising them as full subjects of the Crown.

As late as 1827 white defendants were arguing, although unsuccessfully, that they could not be tried for killing Aborigines because the victim was not a subject of the Crown. (The barrister who made that argument, Dr Robert Wardell, later established a newspaper before being shot by bushrangers near his estate in Petersham.)

Also notable was the prominent role religion played in the operation of criminal trials in the early days of colonial Sydney.  This can be seen in the first rape trial involving a soldier, Henry Wright, as a defendant.

In the first rape case a soldier, Henry Wright, was sentenced to death but then pardoned and sent to Norfolk Island for assaulting an eight-year-old girl called Elizabeth Chapman at Lane Cove – or, as the minutes put it ‘‘for not having the fear of God before his eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil’‘. The girl had to show she knew her catechism and recite the Lord’s Prayer before she gave evidence at the trial.

The preservation of these court records and respective correspondence helped to give us insights into the social discourses within the early years of colonial Sydney.  As H.V. Evatt once wrote, the courts were the earliest forum of the colony.

“They had no competitors as a means of expressing individual or public grievances. There was no legislature, no municipal government, no avowed political association or party, no theatre, and no independent press,” Evatt wrote.

‘Legal issues over Hey Dad! media frenzy’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2010)

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Those who read Australian newspapers will not be able to ignore the recent case surrounding the allegation of sexual abuse by the retired actor, Robert Hughes, in the long running television comedy series, Hey Dad!.  The media all seems to be giving the impression that Robert Hughes is quite possibly guilty of sexual abuse of several female cast members.  What is interesting is whether the media attention to this case would jeopardise the subsequent court hearing.

ACTOR Robert Hughes could have a potential criminal case against him thrown out of court because of the media frenzy surrounding the Hey Dad! sex scandal, a legal expert has warned.

Greg Barns, a director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said it was possible a judge might find Hughes unable to receive a fair trial…

Mr Barns said that the people calling for Hughes to be charged could be hindering the legal process.

”The difficulty I had with what A Current Affair has done is it has effectively carried out a trial without the safety of a trial,” he said. ”It’s aired very serious allegations on an individual … it has created a feeding frenzy around Mr Hughes.”

He said the attention could make it ”harder” for Hughes to get a fair trial if charges were laid.

”Particularly with someone high profile like that, it can taint a jury pool,” he said.

This raises an interesting question.  What should be the responsibility of the media in dealing with legally sensitive cases, especially those involving public figures?