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Friday, December 01, 2006

A couple of bad days at the Crown Solicitor's Office

I hope NSW Crown Solicitor Ian Knight has had a Bex and a good lie down after events yesterday.

Readers will recall his now famous September rant to the Government Lawyers Conference. Two items in that speech were his strong and unqualified defence of the sacrosanct nature of legal professional privilege, and criticism of those who didn't understand that the administration of justice depended on it; and secondly his strong words about the media, particularly the "disgraceful treatment of former Justice Marcus Einfeld".

Yesterday, Attorney General Phillip Ruddock asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct a review of legal professional privilege, following one of the recommendations from the Cole Royal Commission. The Attorney General said that while privilege was an important entitlement to enable people to talk openly and honestly with their legal advisers, it was important to get the balance right, as it was clear that in some instances, privilege had been inappropriately used to frustrate investigations.

Law Reform Commission President David Weisbrot said the Commission had been asked to determine if there were circumstances in which legal privilege should "bend" to the broader public interest.

(Incidentally, Deputy NSW Ombudsman Chris Wheeler, in the latest edition of the Australian Institute of Administrative Law Forum - not yet available online - has an article questioning why legal advice should be treated in the public sector in any different way to advice on other matters).

Then last night, Michael Beach and Viva Goldner of the Daily Telegraph received a Walkley Award for the best news report for their original story about Mr. Einfeld and uncovering his attempts to avoid traffic fines.

Not happy Ian?

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