A non-fiction book about corruption in the Australian Government, Judiciary and Federal Police. The book includes documented evidence and names names.
Love Letters from the Bar Table by Shane Dowling
NATURAL JUSTICE AND THE NEW ‘TABLE TALK’
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE of Richmond Green Chambers
I’m always interested in the cross section of law books depicting the working of the common law across its jurisdictions. When I came across this curious self published work, ‘Love Letters from the Bar Table’, from Shane Dowling, who has a certain number of ‘issues’ with the legal establishment in Australia, I thought it was worth looking at further.
A doctrine which is gaining international popularity at present is called ‘judicial recusal’ where a judge stands aside (or is made to stand aside) in certain circumstances based on the two main rules of natural justice: namely, a judge may not act in his own cause; and both sides must be heard. New Zealand academic Grant Hammond has written a definitive work on the current state of the law.
I think it’s a fair comment to say that we do not have any recognised corruption within the judiciary in the United Kingdom. I, for one, have grave reservations about the strength of any argument suggesting forms of corruption elsewhere amongst judges because of the catastrophic constitutional implications involved.
So, what I am saying here is that I have no idea of the rights and wrongs of Shane Dowling’s detailed case. I don’t offer an opinion although I have read his documents and his views in the book in some detail. What I do say, however, is that I feel the worth of this book merits some consideration in relation to the basic concepts we hold true in the common law tradition, namely upholding rules of natural justice.
This book is described as ‘a true story about the systematic scandalisation of the Australian Federal Judicial System’. In 18 chapters and just over 300 pages, a case is being made out that certain people are, by definition, ‘corrupt’ and ‘taking bribes’. But it is one-sided with silence and inaction on the other
The problem remains that when judicial decisions are made where one party becomes aggrieved by the outcome, the phrase ‘sour grapes’ springs to mind. I feel Dowling doesn’t suffer from sour grapes but has that other perennial, ‘being ignored’.
It’s only relatively recently in UK that judges now give interviews or sometimes reply to correspondence (through their clerks) so I am not surprised by the tactics employed in the ‘stop (or rather ignore) Dowling’ campaign. Frankly, I doubt whether he will ever get closure on his matter, but he raises a most important principle – that is: ‘when should a judge retire from a hearing’, or, in other words: ‘when can we question a judge?’
I came away from this book with very perplexed feelings. Mr Rudd will do nothing; the Australian judiciary would never acknowledge any form of corruption as I see it; and the case for a Royal Commission (or whatever name you want to call it in the future) is many years away, if ever it is convened, and gives any form of realistic appraisal to be acted upon. So, what to do?
Well, Dowling has raised the consciousness of the issue in parallel with increases in judicial recusal applications as the wider public become more aware of the failings of judges. Frankly, it’s a can of worms with no winners on the horizon here.
But I would like to think that the ironically named ‘Love Letters’ is a marker setting a future agenda for international human rights and upholding the rules of natural justice in the tradition of a discussion on a new ‘Table Talk’ theme- it’s a valuable contribution to the debate about how we face the future in the global discussion age of the internet … and where judges (and politicians) will have to face up to a new agenda of jurisprudential responsibility by answering their critics if our accepted concept of natural justice is ignored.