Monday, 15 December 2014

Sydney subdued after tragic end to siege in legal precinct

What a terrible, terrible event with a such desperately sad ending. Among the two hostage victims was a barrister from chambers across the road from the cafe. The legal fraternity is in utter disbelief at this shocking tragedy and offers its condolences to the victims' families and friends.

Update: The late gunman's name is well known in the legal profession, due to the High Court case of Monis v The Queen (2013) 249 CLR 92 on the constitutionally implied freedom of political communication, arising from Mr Monis' prosecution for sending certain malicious communications to the families of deceased Australian military personnel. Mr Monis sought having the statutory provision under which he was charged declared constitutionally invalid. After a unanimous decision against him in the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal, Mr Monis appealed to the High Court, which comprised 6 rather than the usual 7 Justices (due to the imminent retirement of Justice Gummow at the time of the hearing). The High Court was split 3:3 on the question of the constitutionality of the statutory offence with which Mr Monis had been charged. The Judiciary Act 1903 solved the tie by requiring that the decision in the court below be affirmed. Hence, the relevant statutory offence not being unconstitutional, the prosecution of Mr Monis continued.

Mr Monis ultimately pleaded guilty and was convicted. He subsequently appealed against his conviction, seeking to agitate the same constitutional argument that had previously failed (albeit in unusual circumstances). He applied to have the proceedings removed to the High Court. That removal application was heard on Friday 12 December 2014, but two Justices of the High Court declined to exercise their discretion to order the removal of the proceedings, and Mr Monis' application was thereby refused.

Simply horrendous.

Flags on Sydney's Harbour Bridge flying at half mast, on a grey and foreboding morning that stands in sharp contrast to yesterday's brilliant summer weather.
A stunned silence has fallen across the usually bustling city.