A lawyer who has helped thousands of clients get the justice they deserve in court is calling for a change in the laws in Australia.
Lawyer John Marshals is a criminal defence lawyer who is renowned for representing people accused of serious crimes and has also represented people accused in sexual offences.
He’s also been named as a key figure in the trial of Sydney paedophile John McKechnie who was jailed for life for raping two children.
Mr Marshals has spoken out in support of a new law, the Crimes Against Children Protection (CCPA) Act, which is currently being considered in the Parliament.
The act would make it easier for the accused to challenge their convictions on the grounds of a lack of evidence.
But Mr Marshals says it is an “abject failure” in the case of children.
“It’s a piece of legislation which says ‘you are presumed innocent until proven guilty’ so it’s not a good piece of law in my view,” Mr Marshalls told news.com.au.
“If you don’t prove you’re guilty, it doesn’t matter what the evidence is.”
The idea is to get someone to say ‘I’m innocent’, but there are a number of things in the act that actually undermine that.
“We’re not looking to change the laws of Australia but to change their understanding of the laws and how they apply in Australia.”
Mr Marshalls is not the only lawyer who feels the law needs reform.
In a blog post for the Lawyers Association of New South Wales, former Victorian Supreme Court judge Michael Burston said a number changes to the criminal justice system were needed.
“As a result of the recent spate of cases where a person has been convicted of sexual offences against children and has been sent to jail, the Australian criminal justice systems system has been failing victims of sexual assault and sexual violence for a long time,” he wrote.
“This is particularly concerning given that the vast majority of victims of abuse are female.”
Mr Burston also urged more money for victims and support for women who were assaulted.
“Women are often not provided with the information and support they need to get the help they need, often leaving them without legal representation,” he said.
“More resources and more funding to help victims of sex crimes is needed.”
Mr Justice Michael Mardel, who presided over the McKechenie case, has said he will continue to oppose the act.
“I think that [the act] is a bad law,” he told Sky News.
“There’s been a long-standing failure to take a look at the needs of the victim.
It’s been around for decades and the only reason we have a statute of limitations is to protect the children and the people that have been abused.”
But the ABC has spoken to a number women who have spoken out against the new law.
Lawyers acting for a group of women who had been sexually assaulted by Mr McKechoie are calling on the Government to reform the act and to make it more gender-neutral.
“When a child is assaulted and he’s raped, there’s a presumption that he’s guilty and he needs to be prosecuted,” lawyer and advocacy lawyer, Heather Rourke, told news,com.ai.
“He’s not guilty and there’s no case against him and there is no charge for him, so it just creates this huge burden on the woman who’s assaulted and makes it harder for her to go through the process of getting justice.”‘
It’s all a bit surreal’In a statement, Mr McLeod said he had never had a sexual assault charge brought against him before.
“My lawyers have worked tirelessly to ensure that I was fully aware of my rights as a child victim of abuse,” he explained.
“At the time of the assault I was only 16 and I was never sexually assaulted.
I have no knowledge of what happened to me or anyone else.”
He said he believed the new act was flawed and would be the subject of a constitutional challenge.
“To say that I’m entitled to a free trial because I didn’t consent to a sex act, is just ludicrous.
It means I don’t have to prove that I had consent,” he added.”
And it also means the person who’s committing the offence, who’s going to be convicted, will be able to go to court and argue that he wasn’t in fact sexually assaulted, and he won’t be able prove it.”
Heidi Smith, executive director of the women’s legal service, said the new legislation is problematic.
“What it does is it opens the door for prosecution in the community against someone who’s already been convicted and they can just prosecute them in the local courts,” she told newscom.uk.
“So it opens up the possibility for people who haven’t been convicted to be charged in a local court.”
Mr Smith said there was also a risk of a backlash.
“A lot of people are concerned about what