Queensland Law Society

You have the right to remain silent

Date 24 May 2013
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone (07) 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society defends the right to silence and the presumption of innocence, and says there is no need for erosion of these fundamental rights of the citizenry.

Vice President Ian Brown said QLS considered these principles to be vital to our justice system.

“The right to silence is an essential protection for the accused in the criminal justice system,” Mr Brown said.

“This is based on centuries of case history that established that the prosecution bears the onus of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

“A defendant should not have to prove their own innocence in the face of the vast resources of the state or be disadvantaged because they have remained silent. 

“Often people are dealing with the police when they are alone, frightened, or even affected by mental illness.

“To be disadvantaged by staying silent at the time of arrest would be grossly unfair and undermine one of the main purposes of our justice system – to ensure an impartial hearing for those accused.

“Comparisons with the UK system of criminal justice are not helpful because in the UK there is much greater investment in legal representation to assist the accused.

“For example, the UK government pays for an accused person to have a solicitor when taken into custody which isn’t the case in Queensland.

“We are in touch with our counterparts at the Law Society of England and Wales and they have reported a number of problems with the changes that have been made to their criminal justice system.

“QLS is not aware of any evidence that there is currently a problem with the system in Queensland and we do not see a need for reform.