Jack Thomas was at the beach with his family when he was served by a control order signed by the Attorney-General, Mr Ruddock. He was required to return to Melbourne immediately. He will now be subject to a curfew and a requirement that he report to police daily, as well as other restrictions. 

A magistrate will consider this further, but only a very limited basis. There will be no fair trial of the issues. There will be no proper rules of evidence. There will be no presumption of innocence. We have departed from centuries of hard won democratic tradition under which deprivation of liberty can only follow an accusation of crime, with a trial in which guilt would have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

At his trial, Jack Thomas faced four charges. The jury acquitted him last February of the two most serious counts, which alleged training for and participation in planning for terrorism offences. He was convicted of two lesser offences. He was jailed for five years for receiving funds from a terrorist organisation. The crown case was that he received an airfare and $1500.

This offence does not require that you intend to do anything wrong with the money. It merely requires that you receive the money either knowing it is from a terrorist organisation or reckless as to whether it is from a terrorist organisation. The jury clearly did not accept that he intended to do any terrorist act. They acquitted him of the two other charges which required such an intention.

On no reasonable view, even without his appeal, could Jack Thomas be described as a terrorist.

The Court of Appeal allowed Jack Thomas’s appeal on the basis that the confession extracted by Australian police in Pakistan was involuntary. It is quite wrong to assert that it was only because he was not allowed a lawyer that the interview was rejected. He was forced to confess by appalling pressure involving the entire future course of his life.

Once you allow involuntary confessions, you licence law enforcement authorities to break the law which it is their duty to uphold. You open the door to all manner of mistreatment, including torture. Instead of the law being founded on respect for the dignity of the human person, the law becomes an instrument to degrade humanity.

Not surprisingly in view of his cruel treatment at the hands of authorities, Jack Thomas has suffered serious psychiatric harm.

The Court of Appeal is still to consider a Crown application for a retrial on the basis of a Four Corners program. If Mr Thomas were to get in the witness box in the hearing before the magistrate, evidence he gave would very likely be used against him at any subsequent trial — a further serious inroad into the right to silence.

The Attorney-General, in spite of the jury’s verdict that Jack Thomas had not planned any terrorist activity, will not allow the courts to thwart his will. He has not condemned mistreatment of an Australian citizen overseas. He has not stood against the extraction of confessions by cruel means.

Instead he has sought to perpetuate Jack Thomas’s misery through a secret hearing without the normal legal rules applying. That is a grave danger to our carefree, beach going, Australian democracy.

Peter Fray

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