Be careful what you wish for

Ian Franklin writes: Re. “Siege inquiry needs greater independence and more focus” (yesterday). The question shouldn’t really be “why wasn’t Man Monis on a watch list” but more “what would have been different if he were on a watch list?”.

What I want to hear is “what happens on a watch list” and how would it have it made a difference in this case — I suspect not much. I suspect most punters would think the person is under 24-hour surveillance with a “trenchcoat” following the “lister” ever ready to pounce the instant he/she does something wrong and avert another heinous crime.

People (and politicians) who call for more surveillance in the community should be careful what they wish for. People should step back and take a deep breath and remember the ASIO dossiers on communists, socialists, student leaders, union rabble rousuers, war protesters, etc. What “good” did those “watch lists” do and how would they differ from “watch lists” in place now?

People should not be lulled into a false sense of security that “watch lists” will make anyone safer. I suspect they are embraced by politicians, the police and some sections of the media because they give the “appearance of doing something” without really doing much at all (other than give rise to a call for more resources and funding to boot!).

Bail an important part of the justice system

Jim Catt writes: Re. “Inquiry into Sydney siege” (yesterday). I think Geoffrey Heard is a bit confused. The High Court did not rule on Man Monis’ pending sexual assault charges, it ruled on his conviction in relation to sending vile letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

He also seems to be confusing the words “charged” and “convicted”. The fact that someone is charged with an offence doesn’t mean they’re guilty of it, as numerous “not guilty” verdicts show. Because of that, as a matter of course, people charged with an offence are bailed to appear at a later date. The alternative would be to lock up the not guilty with the guilty until trial. And with the delays in our court systems, that can mean months if not years for innocent people to spend on remand in prison.

Of course, there have to be exceptions — when the courts determine that the person charged is a potential flight risk, likely to offend while on bail, or likely to interfere with witnesses. And, it may be that Monis should have been denied bail, something that the inquiry will no doubt address. However, to suggest as Heard does that there should be a blanket denial of bail goes completely against our system of justice and the concept of innocence until proven guilty.

What makes a terrorist?

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Sydney gunman a criminal, not a terrorist” (Tuesday). What is a terrorist? From reading Crikey, I have learned that you are not a terrorist unless you follow Islamic orthodoxy (as defined by some random non-Muslim) and are law-abiding up until the point where you actually start killing people.