Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
8 February 2007

Zuma still innocent – but tainted

Jacob Zuma’s lawyers will today file papers in court opposing the NPA’s request for the release of the documents from Mauritius. The documents apparently show that Zuma met with French Arms company executive Alain Thetard and Schabir Shaik in Durban on 11 March 2000.

As a legal matter, Zuma and his lawyers are of course perfectly within their rights to oppose the request because if admitted the documents could help convict Zuma and send him to jail for 15 years.

As a political matter though, I am surprised that no one is asking why Mr Zuma would want to oppose an application for a release of the documents. If he is innocent as he professes, he surely would be glad for all the relevant documents to be placed before a court because it could only prove his innocence.

By opposing this application he places himself in a politically awakward position, because it suggests that there is something to hide.

Unfortunately Mr Zuma and his supporters have so bamboozled commentators and the general public with their bleetings about being innocent until proven guilty, that few people are prepared to make a political or ethical judgment against Mr Zuma before he is actually convicted of a crime.

Plain common sense tells me that Mr Zuma might still be innocent, but that he is decidedly not untainted by the criminal investigation and his response to it.

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