• It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Law Society of Tasmania.

Events

  • I attended a meeting with Mr Tristan Bell (Prison Services) on 10 November 2023.
  • The Council met on 20 November 2023.
  • I attended a stakeholder meeting for TASCAT on 14 November 2023.
  • On 17 November 2023, we received the annual report of the Office of the DPP which we are currently reviewing.
  • The Executive Director and I attended a meeting with the Department of Justice on 21 November.
  • Between 21 and 24 November, Hobart is hosting the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives (“IILACE”) conference. It is the 25th anniversary of IILACE. On 21 November, the Executive Director and I attended the reception at Government House and then on 22 November, I opened the conference at Crowne Plaza. IILACE is an association of Chief Executives of law societies and bar associations from around the world. The purpose of the organisation it is (i) to provide a focused forum for exchange of views and information of common interest of local, national, and international executive officers of law societies and bar associations (ii) to promote and defend the status and interests of the legal profession, law associations and the rule of law and (iii) to hold periodic forums for discussion of matters of mutual interest. It is an honour for the Law Society of Tasmania to be able to host such an event and I congratulate Executive Director Luke Rheinberger, who is a member of the IILACE Executive who played a significant role in securing the conference for Hobart.

Update on Sentencing Amendment (presumption of mandatory sentencing) Bill 2023

  • On 14 November 2023, the Executive Director and I became aware that Labor had changed its position in relation to the Sentencing Amendment (Presumption of Mandatory Sentencing) Bill 2023 and would be supporting the proposed bill. Immediate steps were taken to confirm our positions with ABC news and the Examiner newspaper. Correspondence was also sent to the members of the Legislative Council. On 15 November 2023, we were advised that the Legislative Council would like a briefing from the Law Society of Tasmania regarding the bill. This will take place in 2024. The Law Society of Tasmania does not support mandatory sentencing and firmly takes the view that parliament ought to respect the independence of the judiciary in relation to sentencing.

Access to clients at Risdon Prison

  • On 9 November 2023, I was contacted by a journalist at the Advocate Newspaper seeking comment on a solicitor being unable to access clients at Risdon Prison. I sought input and feedback from practitioners in the North, North-West and South. I attended a meeting with Mr Bell of the Tasmania Prison Service on 10 November 2023. I am grateful for those practitioners who took the time to send what was helpful information to me.
  • What is clear is that the system is not always perfect, and issues arise from time to time. Lockdowns, staff shortages, client’s willingness to participate, practitioners’ commitments and urgent matters impact on accessibility to clients. It is important that all clients (ie. criminal, family law, family violence) can access legal advice irrespective of whether they are in custody or not. Mr Bell has emphasised that practitioners can contact him direct in relation to urgent matters.
  • On 14 November 2023, an article was published in the Advocate and Examiner Newspaper on the subject.

Julia Higgins
President