First it was Victoria’s Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, now it’s the state’s top prosecutor Jeremy Rapke. Both of these officials have given exclusive interviews to a media organisation to signal important changes in the way they do business.
Today Mr Rapke has given an exclusive interview to the Herald Sun in which he is promising to get tough on sentencing.
Three weeks ago, Chief Justice Marilyn Warren did something similar. She told the Herald Sun, again in an exclusive interview (which was apparently originally an opinion piece), that her court would take over some s-xual abuse cases because of perceived concerns about victims not getting a fair go in the County Court.
No-one would argue against the right of the DPP to argue for increased sentences when he or she appears before the courts. That’s the traditional way it’s done.
But are we heading down the US-style path in the Victorian justice system, where officials like District Attorneys and judges often give interviews to the media and hold press conferences? Remember this though, in that country, many of these officials are elected and using the media is an integral part of their quest to garner community support. That is not the case in Australia where DPPs and judges are appointed by the executive branch of government.
It is ironic that Rapke should be giving an exclusive interview to a media outlet on the same day that The Age runs a full page feature on the lawyers working pro bono for the groups trying to stop dredging of Port Phillip Bay. The author of the piece, Julie Szego, observes that the “barristers themselves are reluctant to speak about why they sign up for these fights, citing professional ethics and fear of repercussions from judges who, unlike their counterparts in the US, tend to frown on advocates intent on courting public opinion.”