Lawyers who are involved in the criminal justice system are increasingly turning to civil legal expertise, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a law that made it illegal to use your phone in a public place.
The ruling, which struck down a ban on texting while driving, comes amid a rise in the number of road traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
“People are using their phones, and they are distracted, they are using them for purposes other than driving,” said Chris Wilson, who teaches law at the University of Melbourne and has been involved in criminal cases since the 1980s.
“They don’t think that’s OK.”
But not all lawyers are keen on turning to criminal law.
The Australian Law Reform Commission says there is a “paucity of evidence” about the impact of criminal law on people’s behaviour.
Professor Michael Gaughan, a former judge, told the ABC that many criminal cases would likely end in a guilty verdict if it were left to the lawyers’ discretion.
“The lawyers are well aware of that and it’s not a big issue for them to deal with, but they are very mindful of the fact that it could be seen as being inappropriate in a legal setting,” he said.
Mr Wilson said lawyers were often reluctant to go the criminal route because it is more difficult to establish a case.
“We’re talking about people who are accused of a crime,” he explained.
“But you can’t establish the charge because the defence has to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If you’re a lawyer and you’re dealing with a criminal case and you want to be able to prove your case in a court of law, then that’s probably the way you would do it.
“What are the legal issues in the case?
The Supreme Court ruling is not the first time the law has been challenged by the community.
In July, a man was found guilty of stealing a pair of shoes from a Melbourne shop, after a jury found him guilty of theft.
Another man, in April, pleaded guilty to stealing a $15,000 jewellery ring from a Sydney jewellers.
And in December last year, a Sydney man pleaded guilty for stealing $200,000 worth of jewellery and gold from a jeweller in Sydney.
Topics:law-crime-and-justice,courts-and.justice,federal—state-issues,law-parliament,crime,social-media,internet-technology,technology,internet,socialmedia,technology-policy,education,melbourne-3000,vic,newcastle-2300,vic-2075,southport-4215,sutton-2280,qld,nsw,australiaMore stories from Victoria