Australian legal system guarantee justice

For the most part, the South Australian legal system guarantees justice, although being vulnerable to human manipulation and corruption. Doctrine of precedent, the process of appeal and the use of a jury ensure that accused individuals are given a fair trial and sentence. The system is built to be impartial, so that regardless of race, religion, or gender individuals will be treated under the same rules. That being said, with more funds available, the defendant in a legal case may be able to hire a better legal team, and reduce their sentence severity.

Judges in South Australia use doctrine of precedent to determine a fair sentence based on prior sentences for similar offences. This ensures that an individual receives a sentence relative to what other people are given. In the case of R v PETER ATHANASAS, the judge references two cases in the sentencing remarks. Both R v Dubois and R v Telford cases are mentioned by the District court judge, as reference and justification for the sentence being dealt. Both of the mentioned cases involved a similar offence to that committed by the defendant, Mr. Athanasas.

The judge conveys that not only must his sentence abide by the parameters of the other two cases, but also as a deterrent to future criminals who intend to commit the same crime. “It is stealing in this case, stealing on a grand scale and deterrence must therefore be a predominant factor in sentencing”. [1] Although mentioning doctrine of precedent in sentencing remarks isn’t required as mandatory in Magistrates, District or Supreme Courts, judges are required to take prior cases into consideration, and are given very specify guidelines as to which punishments they can distribute for specific offenses.

This ensures that justice is guaranteed when a convicted individual is sentenced. The use of a jury in the District and Supreme Court guarantees that any accused individuals will be judged by twelve neutral jurors. This means that the decision as to whether or not an individual is guilty lies on the judgment of twelve people. The twelve jurors are chosen before the trial begins by both attorneys, from a random pool of potential candidates. Voir dire is the name given to this process that ensures bias towards one side of argument is eliminated, or at least balanced.

[2] The jury system is used worldwide, and is recognised as being the most just way of deciding whether an individual is guilty or innocent. [3] Members of the jury are not allowed to converse with anyone who is actively involved in the case, except for the judge, tipstaff and associate. This is done in order to ensure that the jury is not confronted with bribery or blackmail. It also ensures and that no external factors influence the jury’s decision, allowing the jurors to settle on a just verdict.

In order to receive fair treatment through the legal system, it is often necessary to seek assistance from a lawyer. This can be an expensive exercise, depending on the matter to be resolved and one’s capacity to pay for it. The financial costs of pursuing justice can be so high that many people simple can’t afford to do so. "Both the high level of legal costs and the consequential impact on legal representation are matters of grave concern. '' – The Honourable Chris Kourakis, a renowned South Australian Judge.

[4] In a system that meant to be impartial, money plays a big part in the success or failure of a case. Due to the alarming cost of hiring an attorney, only the poorest and richest Australian citizens will ever be able to afford legal representation. For the majority of Australia’s population, the middle class, legal representation is often too expensive to employ. Keeping this in mind, wealthy individuals or organisations automatically have the upper hand over the general population.

Eugene McGee, a South Australian lawyer, was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, after he hit a cyclist and fled the scene in 2003. McGee, who had many contacts within the field of law, hired a particularly costly legal team, and managed to escape a manslaughter conviction on the lesser charge of “Driving without due care”. He was fined $3100 and lost his driver’s licence for 12 months, effectively getting away with murder. [5] The Eugene McGee case is a key example in illustrating how financial accessibility conflicts with South Australia’s “impartial” legal system.

That being said, no legal system in the world comes without any flaws, and in order to remove the issue of wealth distorting the system’s impartiality, it would mean removing an individual’s right to choose their own legal representation. Complete justice is almost always achieved through the use of the South Australia’s legal system. Although the system is imperfect due to flaws in its key strongpoint, impartiality, the vast majority of South Australians would agree that it is just.


"ATHANASAS, Peter. " Sentencing Remarks. Courts Administation Authority of South Australia, 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.