Lawyers want 'right to remain silent' changes overturned

THE Law Society of NSW has called for the State Government to overturn changes to laws governing a suspect's right to remain silent, saying the controversial legislation has never been used.

Society president John Eades said the 2012 changes meant a person could be looked upon less favourably if they exercised their right to silence when arrested but later attempted to rely on evidence given in court.

"The Law Society strongly opposed the O'Farrell Government's modification of the right to remain silent when arrested back in 2012 as an attack on fundamental rights," Mr Eades said

"It is an essential tenet of the criminal justice system that the prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

"It is not the responsibility of the accused to prove his or her innocence.

"Prior to the 2012 changes the right to silence existed for many years and is a fundamental part of our criminal law system."

Mr Eades said there were many reasons why a person might not immediately give testimony, and the legislation should be immediately overturned.

"They may be in shock or confused by the allegations, affected by drugs or alcohol, inarticulate or have poor English," he said.

"It is invalid to assume that only a guilty person has a reason to remain silent when questioned by police."

It has now been revealed that no court has used the new laws since their creation in 2012 - a fact Shadow Attorney-General Paul Lynch said proved their ineffectiveness.

"The government's laws to abolish the right to silence were always wrong in principle. It's now clear they've been a complete joke in practice," he said.

"Whilst I am glad this law hasn't been applied, having opposed the change in the first place, it's a clear example of this government's focus on a catchy media grab over the detail of the legislation.

"The right to silence is a key pillar of our legal system and should never have been tampered with - especially not for the sake of a few newspaper headlines."

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