An opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph says interfering with the make-up of a jury is a recipe for disaster and Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi agrees.
The decision by Judge Donna Woodburne to discharge a jury of 12 men in a sexual assault case for no other reason than that they were 12 men strikes at the heart of the jury system and the right to be tried by our peers.
It is a tenet of our system that juries are chosen at random.
Jurors’ names are chosen from the electoral roll with no thought as to their gender, age, skin colour, sexual orientation, religion or any other identity beyond being an eligible Australian. Potential jurors join jury panels whose names are drawn to see if they end up in the jury box or go home.
But Judge Woodburne said she was discharging the jury of 12 men because they were not representative of the community and subsequently the trial they were to sit on may not be fair or be seen to be fair.
Far from being a victory for feminism or the #Metoo movement, it only entrenches the worst sort of gender stereotypes with its suggestion that men might not return a verdict in a sexual assault trial, or any other trial, as fairly as women?
Imagine if a male defendant applied to have the jury hearing his trial discharged because the jurors were 12 women and might be prejudiced against him. He would be quite rightly laughed out of court.
More importantly, Judge Woodburne seems to have misconstrued the whole idea of what being “representative” of our community really means.
It would be a shame to let such an important part of our civic life fall prey to the sort of divisive identity politics that seeks to put us all in little boxes based on our external characteristics, rather than treating us as individuals bound together by our common Australianness.
Taken to its logical conclusion, courts in the future may need to construct jury panels made up equally of men, women, indigenous Australians, the gay and lesbian and gender neutral community, disabled people?
Senator Bernardi has told Paul Murray Live on Sky News the decision strikes him as both hypocritical and insane.
To read Janet Fife-Yeomans' full article, click here.
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