Right to silence abolished in New South Wales

March 21, 2013

Media release
For immediate release: Thursday 21st March 2013

Right to silence abolished in New South Wales

The people of NSW will no longer have the right to remain silent after the NSW Government passed the Evidence Amendment (Evidence of Silence) Bill 2013. The new law will allow juries to draw an adverse inference if people accused of a crime choose not to take part in a police interview, and later rely on evidence they did not disclose.

Stephen Keim, President of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), said ‘the right to silence is an essential pillar of the right to a fair trial. By abolishing the right to silence, the presumption of innocence is undermined and a safeguard against police brutality is removed. This runs counter to Australia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and centuries of precedent in common law systems.’

‘Abolishing the right to silence will also be unworkable in practice. There is no evidence that abolishing the right to silence will assist with the prosecution and conviction of ‘hardened criminals, as claimed by the Attorney General. Instead, vulnerable members of our society will bear the brunt of these new laws’, said Mr. Keim.

‘Similar laws were passed in Britain in 1994 and these laws have complicated and distorted the criminal legal system and have proven extremely unpopular, leading to floods of appeals’, said Mr. Keim. ‘This is despite the fact that Britain, unlike Australia, has a Human Rights Act and duty solicitors are provided at major police lock ups.’

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights will host a seminar on the implications of the changes to the right to silence at Parliament House, this evening, 21 March, at 5.30pm. Speakers will include David Porter of Redfern Legal Centre, Dr Thalia Anthony of UTS and David Shoebridge, Greens MLC.

Media Contact: Stephen Keim SC, President
M: 0433 846 518 E: s.keim@higginschambers.com.au