IT USED TO BE said that doctors buried their mistakes, which has not been true for some time, not with TV ads every few minutes for class action lawyers and medical malpractice suits quite common before the courts. As their insurance brokers know, medicos who make the wrong calls are going to be run through the mill, a likelihood pointing to the real smarties of our modern age. That would be the legal profession, in case you had not guessed.
Ponder this note, just received, from a professional journalist:
“I’m listening to Neil Mitchell of 3AW and Faine on 774 and they both keep saying that no one should mention a thing about [an accused killer’s long criminal record]. What they should be saying is how bad the restrictions on reporting courts are … every day we get at least a dozen suppression orders emailed to us banning mention of defendants’ names or other details.
“… last year a Melbourne magistrate banned publication of a sex attacker’s ethnicity. We could use his name but not the country he came from. Why? Well magistrates don’t have to explain; they can literally lay down their law as they please”
The correspondent goes on mention other bizarre rulings, including the decision some years ago to prohibit broadcasting the original Underbelly series in Victoria, even though it was being shown north of the Murray and readily available on the web.
And there is another thought as well, particularly on this grey Melbourne day as our city mourns the victim of a particularly vicious crime: Why do our courts believe Australians are so simple-minded they cannot be informed of defendants’ criminal records without proceedings being hopelessly prejudiced? Are Americans so much smarter than us, because no such prohibitions exist there and juries still seem to make informed decisions? Indeed, as O.J. Simpson could testify, avalanches of negative publicity, speculation and damning character profiles in the press can still result in an acquittal.
One of the few core responsibilities of government is seeing justice done while making sure that it is seen to be done. This should take place before the gaze of the public which pays significant sums for the service of judges and magistrates, the key word being “service”. Keeping the populace ignorant of matters of great public interest, and doing so for arbitrary reasons, suggests that the collective bench has lost sight of that obligation.
The legal profession has taken a lucrative delight in reminding doctors of their obligation to get it right. Physician heal thyself, as they say.