High Court of Australia upholds laws that protect people from being accosted and harassed outside abortion clinics

Kathleen Clubb v Alyce Edwards & Anor; John Graham Preston v Elizabeth Avery & Anor [2019] HCA 11 (10 April 2019)

In this landmark decision, the High Court upheld the constitutional validity of safe access zone laws in Victoria and Tasmania, in particular, provisions that prohibit certain communications and protests about abortion within 150 metres of abortion clinics.

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NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal awards compensation to Aboriginal tenants for uninhabitable housing

Various Applicants from Santa Teresa v Chief Executive Officer (Housing) [2019] NTCAT 7

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) has awarded compensation to Aboriginal tenants in the remote community of Santa Teresa over the Northern Territory government's failure to provide habitable public housing. Residents of 70 households in Santa Teresa brought the action against the Northern Territory government. In this decision, the first four of these cases proceeded to hearing, and the Tribunal awarded compensation in each case.

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High Court holds that lower caps on third party electoral expenditure breach the implied freedom of political communication

Unions NSW v New South Wales [2019] HCA 1 (29 January 2019)

The High Court of Australia unanimously held that a NSW law that imposed a lower cap on the allowable electoral expenditure for third party campaigners compared with expenditure allowed for political parties and candidates was unconstitutional, as it impermissibly burdened the implied freedom of political communication.

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Supreme Court of Canada upholds constitutional right of non-resident Canadians to vote in elections

Frank v Canada (Attorney General), 2019 SCC 1 (11 January 2019)

Non-resident Canadian citizens who had been residing outside of Canada for five or more consecutive years (Non-Residents) lost the right to vote in Canadian federal elections under provisions of the Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c 9 (the Act).  Two Non-Residents Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong (Appellants) challenged this under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) and ultimately succeeded as the infringements on their voting rights were held to be unconstitutional.

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High Court finds Nauru Tribunal unreasonable to refuse protection application without hearing from the applicant

TTY167 v Republic of Nauru

The High Court of Australia has decided that Nauru's Refugee Status Review Tribunal (Tribunal) acted unreasonably in refusing the appellant's protection application after the appellant failed to appear before the Tribunal at a scheduled hearing. 

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The Supreme Court of Canada requires media company to produce communications between journalist and alleged terrorist

R v Vice Media Canada Inc 2018 SCC 53

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal and upheld an order requiring appellants Vice Media Canada Inc. (Vice) and its journalist Ben Makuch (the appellants) to produce communications with Farah Shirdon, a Canadian man suspected of joining ISIS in Syria. The case questions how to balance the freedom and protection of the press with the state’s criminal investigative responsibilities.

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High Court condemns conduct of Victorian police and barrister who informed on her client

AB (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym); EF (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym) [2018] HCA 58

The High Court of Australia demonstrated its reluctance to uphold entitlements to confidentiality and privilege where there are egregious breaches of one’s right to a fair trial and legal professional privilege. The main issue before the High Court was between Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who wanted to disclose information discovered by Victoria’s anti-corruption commission, and the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police (Police Commissioner), who opposed disclosure because of security risks to a police informant (EF) who was simultaneously acting as a defence barrister for Tony Mokbel and six of his criminal associates (Mokbel and Associates).

The High Court found in favour of disclosure, holding that EF’s actions were “fundamental and appalling breaches of [her] obligations as counsel to her clients and of her duties to the court”. The Court also described the actions of Victoria Police as “reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging her” and “atrocious breaches of the sworn duties imposed on every police officer”.

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Victorian Supreme Court holds electroconvulsive treatment ordered against patients’ wishes a breach of human rights

PBU & NJE v Mental Health Tribunal [2018] VSC 564 (1 November 2018)

The Victorian Supreme Court has confirmed that the capacity test under the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) (MHA) must be interpreted and applied in a way that is compatible with the human rights of persons receiving compulsory mental health treatment under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Charter). This decision has significant implications for the human rights of persons with mental illness, and particularly for patients who may be subject to compulsory mental health treatment under the MHA.

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Bakery's refusal to supply cake with messages supporting gay marriage not discriminatory, UK Supreme Court holds

Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd [2018] UKSC 49

In a unanimous decision, the United Kingdom Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal that found a bakery's refusal to supply a cake with the message "support gay marriage" to a gay man amounted to direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The United Kingdom Supreme Court found that the bakery's refusal was centred on promoting the message and the bakers would have come to the same decision regardless of who requested it. In the Court's opinion it did not amount to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, or religious beliefs or political opinion.

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