Accepting injustice as ‘price’ for justice?

If silence is complicity – in the face of wrong doing – accepting injustice in the course of seeking justice is worse, argues ANDREW L. URBAN, in response to Theo Theophanous, commentator and former Victorian government minister, who says it is ‘regrettable but necessary’. 

Innocent people losing their livelihoods, their reputations, their families and their freedoms are just collateral damage in society’s pursuit of justice, it seems, according to Theo Theophanous as expressed in his commentary in The Australian, March 16, 2021.

“As a society I think we all acknowledge that some people will be wrongly accused while others will receive just punishment. We accept that the price paid by those who are falsely accused is a regrettable but necessary feature of our imperfect system.

Theo Theophanous

“This piece has been difficult for me to write. I do so because in reflecting on my own journey I came to the view that justice for thousands of women, men, boys and girls means some accused may have to pay a price for wrongful accusations. This is the bigger “whole of society” justice picture.”

No Mr Theophanous, the ‘whole of society justice picture’ is made up of individual justice pictures. It is a failure of morality, logic and human decency to sacrifice the rule of law – in the process of implementing the rule of law. The presumption of innocence cannot co-exist with such a view. Nor can the ancient legal formulation that it is better for ten guilty to escape than one innocent suffer. No Mr Theophanous, why is it ‘regrettable but necessary’? It is not necessary; there is a proper process for investigating allegations.

The fact that his comments were made in the context of the controversial rape allegation against Christian Porter might suggest he wants to separate one type of crime from all others as to how allegations and accusations are treated. No, again, Mr Theophanous.

That is how an immature, emotionally turbocharged and thoughtless (not to mention heartless) teenager, such as Emily Lindin, thinks. “I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault allegations…” Nov. 28, 2017, Emily Lindin, Teen Vogue columnist, on twitter. Unless one of her male loved ones is a target of false sexual assault allegations, presumably.

A false allegation of sexual abuse or misconduct creates the worst possible stigma, the hardest to disprove and the most destructive. The rule of law is required to be rigorously applied – not less so – for the prosecution of the guilty and the protection of the innocent.

But Mr Theophanous does make a point with which we can all broadly agree:

“…for those who are, or were, in positions of political power or media power, or who control vast business empires, there is, I think, a need — no, an obligation — to accept that with power and privilege comes additional risk.

“This is part of the power contract with society in a democracy. It cannot be the case that from a position of power you demand anonymity or special protection as if you had not implicitly accepted what I call “the contract of privilege”. That contract dictates that you must account for the accusations made against you within a public discourse and — whether guilty or innocent, whether just or unjust — accept that this will impact upon your reputation and career.

If you don’t accept these preconditions don’t run for public office or seek to gain power.

“Because power, especially political power, should never be seen as a bulwark that protects you against accusations, false or otherwise. If you see power in this way you do not deserve to hold it.

“Justice, as applied to the powerful, involves a higher moral bar. This is what maintains public trust.”

But neither should power be an invitation or an accelerant to allegations …



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4 Responses to Accepting injustice as ‘price’ for justice?

  1. Фёдор says:

    In the past ten years unarmed gallant men and women of the United States have given living testimony to the moral power and efficacy of nonviolence. By the thousands, faceless, anonymous, relentless young people, black and white, have temporarily left the ivory towers of learning for the barricades of bias. Their courageous and disciplined activities have come as a refreshing oasis in a desert sweltering with the heat of injustice. They have taken our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One day all of America will be proud of their achievements I am only too well aware of the human weaknesses and failures which exist, the doubts about the efficacy of nonviolence, and the open advocacy of violence by some. But I am still convinced that nonviolence is both the most practically sound and morally excellent way to grapple with the age-old problem of racial injustice.

  2. owen allen says:

    Andrew, How?

    “If silence is complicity – in the face of wrong doing – accepting injustice in the course of seeking justice is worse,”

    Absolutely, but what is worse, is ;
    If they remain silent in the first instance, that endorses wrong doing if in fact the silenced are public servants. Wrong doers who are not legally held to account by knowing law enforcement are not only escaping justice, they are also being endorsed to continue their illegal behaviour.

    Yet then, also in my situation I called out two Police Officers in Court, in front of a Magistrate. It was obvious they both lied, they gave different answers to my questions
    and would have been thrown out, Perjury by Police is a Major Crime, but I did not insist to the Magistrate. But she must have been aware the cops lied. CASE DISMISSED. More Judicial stories. Every circumstance, I was maxing out with adrenaline.

  3. tony brownlee says:

    It is “necessary” to pursue the innocent and impose all that follows? This character is a nut case. my subscription to The Australian ends today! Clearly this arrogant fool has never suffered at the hands of lying Crown prosecutors and sheep masquerading as jurors who from my 30 plus years in the “game” tells me absolutely that ALL jurors enter the jury box with the notion firmly in their heads that they have a duty to convict! You will never ever convince me otherwise!

    • Geraldine Allan says:

      Tony, I don’t have to convince you.

      Nevertheless, I feel offended by your broad statement that, “… tells me absolutely that ALL jurors enter the jury box with the notion firmly in their heads that they have a duty to convict!” You’re yelling “ALL”, for emphasis!

      Having participated in 3 separate trials by jury, never (I want to yell back, yet I’ll restrain myself) have I held the attitude you proclaim, nor would I. My experience is — amidst the jury members at each of those trials, I witnessed at least 50% (6/12) of them trying their very best to understand and, arrive at, an informed and proper decision, against the odds of morally suspect prosecution tactics. For the other 50%, naïveté including lack of experience, wisdom, judgement together with an unsophistication contributed to an inability to take in the responsibilities involved and complicated evidence procedures. After all, juries are comprised of ordinary people randomly selected from a roll-call.

      FACT: I have a scandalous tale to tell. I’m prevented from doing so because if I did I could go to gaol for ‘talking outside the jury’. Briefly but surely, I blatantly objected to wrongdoing within the jury room. Where that went ought be in the trial transcript, if it wasn’t sanitised out. To this day, the evidence remains safely with me of the steps I took in order to prevent a ‘perhaps’ innocent person being found guilty by jury members’ (two of them)impropriety. I could not have it on my conscience, ever.

      My persuasion very much lies with fair trials; I object to the prosecution ‘dirty tricks’ mo.; I’ve witnessed it; I’ve walked alongside victims of it. Thus, I for one strongly object to be in your “ALL”.

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