Fiction and Certainty in Social Security Prosecutions: DPP (Cth) v Keating

By Natalie Burgess

DPP (Cth) v Keating Case Page

In DPP (Cth) v Keating [2013] HCA 20, the High Court ruled that federal legislation imposing a backdated duty on social security recipients to inform Centrelink of changes in their circumstances had failed in its goal of shoring up the prosecution of past instances of social security fraud by omission. The Court held that an omission or failure to act can only attract criminal responsibility when, at the time of the failure, there was an existing legal duty to perform the act. The case sustains the importance of certainty in the criminal law, particularly the role it plays in the purpose and interpretation of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), but leaves aside some important constitutional questions involving the scope of the Commonwealth legislature’s power to enact retrospective criminal law. Continue reading

Free Speech Balanced on a Knife’s Edge: Monis v The Queen

By Professor Adrienne Stone

Monis v The Queen Case Page

In Monis v The Queen [2013] HCA 4, it was alleged that Monis (aided and abetted by Droudis) wrote letters to relatives of Australian soldiers killed in active service in Afghanistan and to the relative of an AusAid official killed by a bomb in Indonesia. The letters expressed opposition to the war in Afghanistan in ‘intemperate and extravagant terms’ and directly insulted those who had died, including describing them as murderers and comparing them to Hitler. These allegations bear an uncanny resemblance to those of Snyder v Phelps, a controversial recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that the Westboro Baptist Church had a right under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to picket the funerals of American soldiers in order to communicate its belief that God hates the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality, particularly in the American military. Continue reading