The independent MP for Frankston, Geoff Shaw, has announced his intention to introduce a private member’s bill on abortion. Abortion was decriminalised in 2008 on the recommendation of the Victorian Law Reform Commission. Shaw’s proposals include “end[ing] the obligation for anti-abortion doctors to refer women to specialists who performed the procedure”, requiring “doctors to provide pain relief for fetuses during procedures, and for doctors to resuscitate babies who survive abortion attempts. He also wants counselling for families and informed consent included in the Act.” In an interview on ABC radio, Shaw struggled to explain why the changes were necessary.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission has launched its inquiry into the “forfeiture rule”, following a reference from the Attorney-General. When a person unlawfully causes another person’s death, this common law principle says they forfeit any inheritance, insurance policy, or payment that they would otherwise have received. The VLRC explains the concern about the rule: “In Victoria, the rule applies equally and inflexibly in all circumstances but the outcome can be harsh. Both a premeditated murder carried out with the intention of obtaining a financial benefit, and a suicide pact in which one of the parties survived, would attract the application of the rule.” In addition, because the rule applies in civil proceedings, “The rule may be applied to a person who has been acquitted, or has not been prosecuted at all, if it is proved to the court, on the balance of probabilities, that the person unlawfully killed the deceased.” VLRC has set up a forfeiture quiz to highlight problematic scenarios.
A fresh trial has been ordered in a Queensland rape case, after the trial judge explained the concept of “beyond reasonable doubt” using an LBW cricket analogy: “if you’re not sure that that ball is really going to hit the stumps or whether there’s some element of doubt about whether the ball pitched in line or not, you have to give the benefit – the umpires have to give the benefit of the doubt to the batsman. And that’s the thing about criminal trials; the benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant.” The Supreme Court of Queensland Court of Appeal held that the analogy was misleading, and that it might have given cricket fans on the jury a disproportionate influence. In Victoria, judges are guided on this point by sections 20 and 21 of the Jury Directions Act 2013, which was passed in response to a VLRC inquiry.