Our first entrants into the Robing Room for 2009 are Melbourne lawyer and pop philosopher Mirko Bagaric and Perth’s victims of crime advocate and socialite Patti Chong.

When Bagaric is not churning out op-ed pieces about deep questions such how to be happy, he is a criminal lawyer. He shot to fame a few years ago for suggesting it is OK to torture suspects. Bagaric, a slavish media seeking law and order junkie, is naturally a darling of the Herald Sun and last Sunday they trotted him out again to fuel their continuing campaign against the ground breaking Victorian Charter of Rights. Bagaric called the Charter “an absolute demonstrable failure on conferring on Victorians any rights they didn’t have previously.” He clearly doesn’t like such instruments.

But last year was using the European human rights laws to try and ensure his client Tony Mokbel didn’t have to return to Australia. Not only that, but on January 10 last year Bagaric told the media that he would be using the Victorian Charter he is now condemning, to argue that Mokbel couldn’t get a fair trial in that state because of the saturation publicity he had to endure when he was captured in Greece.

So could the real Mr Bagaric stand up? Is it the one who this January gives the Herald Sun a useful quote to help it on its anti-rights crusade, or is it the man who last year was thinking the Charter was the next best thing since sliced bread?

Another lawyer was in the media yesterday, but for very different reasons. In Perth’s Sunday Times, high profile WA lawyer and socialite Patti Chong, posed for the cameras to tell the story of how her marriage to the Deputy DPP Ken Bates had broken up, and how she gets to work at 3am because she is just so busy being a lawyer and tireless charity worker, and is single again. Chong was pictured in the paper’s magazine lying in a black velvet number, her head and hands resting on a pillow, looking like the tragic Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly.

The interview with her by the Sunday Times reporter Wendy Caccetta could best be described as surreal. Her husband had been the prosecutor in the infamous case of Andrew Mallard, who was convicted of murder in 1994 and forced to spend 12 years behind bars before being found to have been wrongfully convicted by the High Court in 2005. The WA Crime and Corruption Commission has now made findings of misconduct against Bates for his role with holding material evidence from the defence in the case.

Chong blames the Mallard case for her marriage break up and seems to think that what has happened to her and her husband as a result of his being investigated by the CCC has been just as awful as the 12 years of hell Mallard went through! “What Andrew Mallard went through was bad enough”, said Chong, but “what Ken and my family went through is bad too.”

Give us a break Patti, you and your family didn’t get falsely accused of murder, have the police and prosecution deny your legal team a fair trial, and have 12 years of your life wiped out because you had to spend it in jail!

Peter Fray

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