Is the law an ass?
Charles Dickens must have felt there was some truth to the thought, as the character of Mr Bumble expresses this sentiment in Oliver Twist.
I have been trying to find a way to seek restitution from the Government for the financial, emotional and physical costs incurred during our journey. It seems that should I be careless or negligent and have a car accident, I am liable and held accountable for any damage caused, but should a government department be careless or negligent and nearly destroy people’s lives, that is just bad luck. I find this not only incomprehensible but morally reprehensible. If a person is wrongfully imprisoned, that person is entitled to compensation. If a person is injured at work, the employer may be liable if the workplace is found to be unsafe. I must have insurance in case someone trips on my steps and breaks a leg, for goodness sake.
Yet it seems that if a citizen suffers loss and damage at the hands of the government, the government escapes. No accountability, no responsibility, no liability. I am not, sadly, a lawyer. I wish I was, for then I may be able to find an avenue for legal action. While I believe the legal advice I have received today, from a very eminent practitioner, I can’t believe it. I believe the advice is legally correct, yet I can’t believe we allow such a situation to exist. This is supposed to be an advanced civilisation, yet we allow government departments to be at best careless or negligent and at worst wilfully deny civil rights without ANY responsibility attached to those actions?
I am not giving up just yet, but clearly the law is not on my side. More will suffer a similar fate, unless we can bring about change.
Was Mr Bumble correct?
I quote a passage from my conversation with the aforementioned legal practitioner:
The ICCPR is not part of our domestic law in Australia. It does not create any rights recognised by Australian law. Denial of the rights referred to in ICCPR does not give rise to any cause of action known to Australian law.
It should not be so, but it is.
Crazy. As a nation, we are a signatory. We can lodge a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission under the ICCPR, but we don’t embrace the provisions in our domestic law (as I have previously stated). The logic is…………. may I suggest, non-existent!
Edit August 3: Thank you to The Civil Rights Daily for covering our story today.
EDIT May 2012: Since writing this article, further information has come to light. There are mechanisms in place to claim certain financial losses if they are proven to be as a result of defective administration. So even now, some nine months after I wrote the original piece, I still keep learning new things.