For legislation or for a single law to be effective in gaining justice for society, it has to be enforceable. Young people and drink driving are two aspects which have been affected in relation to opportunities for enforcement. Older people within the community have shown grave concern in whether or not younger people are receiving the sentence they deserve after committing the crime they have committed. This is a significant issue if the legal system is to effectively gain justice for all members of society, including older people. Society is concerned that because a younger person may not have the years of understanding necessary to form an analysis of their actions, that they may be receiving lighter sentences than that of someone older committing the exact same criminal act, even though they are completely aware of the consequences of their actions. In addition, opportunities for enforcing drink driving laws were decreased dramatically after a police officer was killed whilst performing a random breath test. This has society concerned with whether or not this may have reduced the chances of catching drink drivers before they cause an accident. This is an ineffective way of insuring that society is gaining justice from the actions of the legal system.
Appeals are generally rather effective in gaining justice for the individual involved, but can cause great distress for society as a whole. Criminals may continuously keep appealing their sentence for many years. This disallows victims and their families to gain closure over their involvement within a certain case for quite some time, causing them to feel as if justice is not being served for them under the legal system. If justice is not served at the beginning of a trial, the victim’s involvement seems unimportant, and shall never be granted. In the eyes of the people involved and in society, justice delayed is justice denied.
Reviews are highly effective in gaining justice for society. Such reviews may be brought about by a Royal Commission, being an independent, formal inquiry aimed at looking in depth into a certain issue. The WOOD ROYAL COMMISSION is an example of a commission which brought about massive changes to the law in relation to such things as child protection. Reviews are quite expensive but prove extremely powerful in reviewing the law in order to gain justice for society.
Due to the legal system’s reaction to terrorism around the world, the balance between the community’s rights and values, and the individual’s rights and values, has been shifted dramatically. As terrorism is being recognised as the most important criminal issue in Australia the right to an individual’s privacy and procedural fairness is heavily in favour. However, whenever terrorism is concerned an individual’s rights are being denied. This is causing grave unhappiness and restlessness amongst the community, disallowing justice to be served for individuals. Society had adjusted to allowing individuals to have their own values, and instead now is being strongly pushed into having a set of Australian values held by all within the community. This is not effective in balancing the rights and values of both the community and the individual, and it is not effective in gaining justice for society.
Both agencies of criminal law reform and conditions which give rise to reform are equally important in obtaining a certain level of justice for society. Law Reform Commissions (LRCs), Parliament and Courts are all participants in reviewing and amending the law where need be, each maintaining certain aspects of the legal system. Conditions which create the need for the law to change include changing social values present amongst society, what is seen as new concepts of justice, when existing law fails society, change of international law and the consequences of new technology, each of which is a contributing factor in how the law is reformed.
Law Reform Commissions or LRCs are evident at both a State and Federal level. Each looks at particular areas of the law, recommending changes that need to occur. In addition, they look at ways the Government could simplify, fix and modernise the law. The LRC at a federal level is called the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). It has recently looked at laws regarding sedition and the sentencing of young offenders. The LRC at a State level is called the New South Wales Law Reform Commission (NSWLRC). It has recently looked at the role of juries, focusing on bringing in majority verdicts, and sentencing.
Parliament passes statute law, and is the main source of criminal law. State parliaments can pass new laws when they feel there is the need to and they can make amendments to the law if the need arises. The Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) has been amended multiple times since 1900 in order to keep up with changing social values and new technology. When ALRC and NSWLRC make extensive recommendations for amendments to the law, these can be used by the Federal and State Parliaments to pass changes that reflect the recommendations. Parliament can also ratify international agreements by passing it through as domestic legislation.
Courts are those that make common law. When judges in superior courts interpret statute law, they are creating precedents, which hold the full power of the law and must be applied by all other courts.
Australia’s values are changing constantly. Lately we are focusing more on security and less on individual rights. Commonwealth laws have been passed such as the Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 (NSW), based on the idea that society values security more than freedom. As this is not always the case individual’s give in to protest and cause more damage than good. Suspicions have risen about other cultures and religions, prompting debate about the composition of our society and how it affects crime levels.
As society changes, so too does our concept of justice. Drug Law Reform in South Australia and Australian Capital Territory has allowed individuals to have small amounts of marijuana for personal use. This reflects the idea that there is no justice to be gained from spending both time and money, both valuable resources in gaining justice for society, to prosecute people who possess marijuana. There is also a strong push to make family violence a criminal issue instead of a family issue, due to the increasing amount of incidents and outrage arising within the community.
When existing laws do not manage to stop crime, politicians have to act rather quickly. There is evidence of this following the Port Arthur massacre. Due to the fatal use of gun weaponry in Port Arthur, parliament tightened the use of guns and the laws behind possessing such items. This was done in order to prevent further massacres from occurring. Another example where parliament has taken action due to a certain incident is that of R v Bilal Skaf. Parliament quickly changed laws regarding aggravated assault in company in order to increase penal servitude to life imprisonment. This was so the criminal or criminals involved were sentenced with what the community felt they deserved.
There are some cases in which international law is changed or created by the United Nations. In such cases, Australian domestic laws may be altered. For this to occur within Australia a treaty must be ratified by passing it through parliament. Not all international law may automatically apply to Australia. Under these circumstances Australian domestic law does not need to be altered.
When new technology is created, new criminal laws need to be endorsed in order to deal with the misuse of that technology. For example, use of camera phones to record and send images of people against their will are seen as inappropriate and an invasion of an individuals right to privacy. It is because of this invasion that it has been made illegal and any person conflicting with these laws is subject to penal servitude. Cyber crime is also a major issue affecting people across Australia and the world. Crimes to do with hacking and identity fraud are being made and amended quite frequently due to the constant change and continuous learning associated with the Internet. New technology for detecting crime and obtaining evidence has been endorsed. The Crimes Amendment (Forensic Procedures) Act 2001 (NSW) made sure that DNA samples were not gained by conflicting with an individual’s privacy. DNA samples must be freely given by the accused. This allows for both the rights of the victim and the rights of the accused to remain intact and unbreached.
As is previously stated, when evaluating the effectiveness of the law in gaining justice for society, a judgement must be made based on the criteria involved. This includes resource efficiency, law as a reflection of community standards and expectations, opportunities for enforcement, appeals and reviews and the balance between an individual and community’s rights and values. The agencies of criminal law reform include law reform commissions, both at a State and Federal level, known as the ALRC and the NSWLRC, Parliament, and the Courts. Conditions which give rise to reform include those such as changing social values and composition of society, new concepts of justice, failure of existing laws, international law, and new technology, each of which contributes a great deal in the amendment of the law. The legal system is fairly effective at present in gaining justice for society, as is seen in cases such as R v Bilal Skaf. However, there has been a considerable shift in the valuing of individuals rights and values in comparison to that of the community’s. By establishing a balance between the two the legal system may find themselves rather effective in gaining justice for both individuals and society. They cannot guarantee that the outcome of every case will be what society wishes, but they can guarantee that laws amended and made will only reflect what society feels is important in obtaining a better life for future generations.