The DPP vs Hicks

The Department of Public Prosecutions (a Commonwealth body) has decide to try and take some of the profits from David Hick’s memoir under the guise of “Profits from Crime” legislation. It’s an intriguing turn of events that has had big coverage in the Age last Friday and a big segment in Radio National’s excellent Law Report.

I don’t know quite how to take the DPP.

They are a secretive bunch so we will probably never discover who has decided to make this political decision or why. I rate it as a political decision because it’s up to the DPP to decide if they will proceed with a case or not and the legislation was devised to take money off drug barons. To put that in perspective the drug lords hold millions of dollars in ill gotten gains while the Hicks book is somewhere around tens of thousands of dollars so far and its been out for over a year.

It’s clearly not being done for financial gain because they won’t even cover their legal costs even in the unlikely event that they get a surprise win.

I’m currently reading Guantanamo: My Story and I have to say it’s an excellent read. Surprisingly well written, it makes me want to travel and have a look myself (without the religious contact). Most impressive of all, it has a wealth of references which makes it a more scholarly work than some of the half arsed media work we were subjected to from the lazy commentators.

The idea that the telling of Hick’s story is fair game shows an ethical problem with the legislation in defining “crime” and Hicks is not alone in suffering from an enthusiastic Prosecutor. An elderly couple lost their house in WA after their Grandson cultivated a drug crop in their roof unbeknownst to them. The size of the haul made it into to the “trafficable amount” qualification. In the end the WA Government leased their family home back to the couple at a peppercorn rate but it sounds like the property returns to the WA government when they decide to leave.

Being punished for someone else’s crime is a bit rich and I think it shows why we need a Bill of Rights in this country. As you can imagine, most pollies hate the idea both because it would overturn poorly written legislation and they won’t make as much money when a number of cases fail the test.

It’s interesting to note some of the folk who have been hit and some who have not. Michelle Corby got slugged part of the profits from her story (but no reasons given for how they factored their cut) while the notorious Chopper Read has never been hit for his efforts even though they directly relate to his crimes.

The good news in the Hicks case is we finally get to see the story in a proper court and the case has 3 serious flaws in Points of Law, not the least being that he has not been found guilty in a court of law. The talk of this being an attack against Hicks doesn’t gel with me. It’s unlikely to succeed and it is going to put an uncomfortable spotlight on John Howard and his spineless kowtowing to George W Bush.

I think/hope it’s more likely to be being pursued to deal with an unhealthy piece of legislation. That’s still political (which is problematic) but from the reverse direction. If not, someone has made a very serious error and lunch with little Johnnie is unlikely to follow.

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