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Tuesday, 18 April 1961

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- Clause 47 deals with appeals from the Supreme Court to the High Court by persons convicted on indictment. I take it, therefore, that at the moment, until the jury system which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) forecast in answer to my colleague, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), is in operation, on matters of law there will be appeals by right from the Supreme Court to the High Court only in respect of criminal offences which have been tried by a jury. I should like to suggest that, if this is so, the right of appeal should be made wider at this stage. Under the Constitution, the trial on indictment of any offence shall be by jury. That safeguard in the Constitution - one of the very few guarantees of civil liberties in the Constitution - has been constantly by-passed by making offences triable on information, in which case they can be tried by a magistrate or a judge sitting without a jury. I understand that at the moment juries in the Northern Territory are called only to try capital offences, whereas in every other Supreme Court and, in fact, before most courts of quarter sessions and general sessions in the States, criminal offences of a relatively minor nature and with relatively minor consequences are tried by jury.

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