Violence law faces challenge
March 14, 2010 08:50amA TASMANIAN group has filed a $200 million class action against Premier David Bartlett and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
It is believed to be the first Australian class action against a law.
JAIL (Juries Against Illegal Laws) filed papers with the Federal Court of Australia on February 4 claiming that the Family Violence Act 2004 (Tasmania) was invalid.
The group is claiming $200 million in damages under Section 46 of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act.
JAIL is also seeking an additional $200,000 in damages for unlawful assault, trespass, negligence, conspiracy to cause economic loss, intimidation and defamation.
The writ further seeks an order that the Tasmanian Government and DPP Tim Ellis cease to engage in arresting people without proper evidence or procedures, giving police judicial powers, denying people the right to a fair and proper hearing and usurping the proper role of the courts.
JAIL president Ray Escobar said that if the class action was successful the money would be given to all the Tasmanians who had suffered under the Family Violence Act.
JAIL, formed in early 2008, now has more than 200 members around Tasmania who have been, or are related to, victims of false applications for violence orders.
Mr Escobar said JAIL was being represented by one of the finest legal minds in Australia, Sir John Walsh of Brannagh, who lives on Norfolk Island.
Sir John said he agreed to represent JAIL because the case raised important and fundamental questions of human rights, such as the presumption of innocence, right to a fair trial and the separation of powers.
"The legislation, and the way it is enforced, is contrary to human rights and to international law as accepted by Australia," Sir John said.
"The legislation conflicts with the Constitution of Australia and with the fundamental rights of all Australians."
Sir John said he was confident a federal judge would apply the law of the Commonwealth and the fundamental principles of Australia's legal system.
JAIL's application has been set down for hearing in the Tasmanian registry of the Federal Court of Australia at 10am on Monday, April 12.