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Where the Innocent are as Guilty as the Guilty

Fee Fen Njoo - made false allegations of abuse against Labor MP

Fee Fen Njoo – made false allegations of abuse against Labor MP

Trial by media is nothing new, but imagine losing your job, your livelihood and the future means by which to support your children, based on sometimes questionable allegations that have no possible relationship to your work, unless you are imprisoned or if you pose a threat to your work colleagues.

The legal system in the western world is fundamentally designed to punish convicted wrong-doers, either by fine, imprisonment, or by limitations on your general freedom. The system itself has a built-in presumption of innocence, for a clear reason, to safeguard against malicious or imprecise use of the law.

However that presumption no longer seems to exist if you happen to find yourself in the broadening category of what the media believe are high profile roles.

What we are now seeing encroaching into our system of justice in organisations like governments, large corporations and sporting bodies et al, is a double whammy of punishment, often based on little more than suspicion. In fact in almost all cases of high profile domestic violence where the alleged protagonist has been found not-guilty in a court of law, they will still be presumed guilty by their employer and/or the media, thus incur the most significant punishment possible short of imprisonment, that is losing their job, despite their innocence.

This trial by media has no laws, no standards of proof and no appeal processes. You are basically at the mercy of an unsympathetic employer, a journalist, an editor or a media mogul.

There are simply too many such cases to refer to, both in Australia and overseas, but take the below examples as to the implications of an alleged infraction, above and beyond what a Court imposes, in an era when the high profile innocents are treated just as guilty as the guilty.

In 2001, Andrew Theophanous, a Victorian state member of government was falsely accused of sexual assault by a constituent. This allegation was the beginning of the end for this talented Minister’s political career, and in fact resulted in his temporary jailing. He was eventually completely vindicated, even travelling abroad to a foreign Court in pursuit of his accuser, to put his innocence beyond doubt. However his political career, his savings, his health and his family’s welfare were the true victims of what was nothing more than a completely false allegation. The rush to judgment by the media and the government at the time should never have occurred had due process been followed, and had that been the case, perhaps this innocent man’s career and livelihood may have been saved.

In another case in 2007, Fee Fen Njoo, the former girlfriend of NSW Labor Member of Parliament Stephen Chaytor, made allegations that Mr Chaytor physically attacked her during an argument. It was later to be revealed by a submission of uncontested facts that Mr Chaytor had informed Ms Njoo that he was leaving her, and upon hearing the news Ms Njoo ran to the bathroom and began taking pills in an attempted suicide. Mr Chaytor ran in to stop her attempted suicide, and in the process Ms Njoo received a bruise on her leg.

Does this sound like domestic violence to you?

Well it did to the Local Court magistrate who initially heard the matter, and to the NSW Premier at the time.

Not only did Premier Morris Iemma brand  Mr Chaytor a “coward”, he was also sacked and suspended from the Labor party. On appeal, the Court refused to accept Ms Njoo’s version of the truth and Mr Chaytor was completely vindicated, and all charges were dropped against him in the process. However, the damage was already done. Mr Chaytor’s flourishing political career was destroyed. As best as we can tell, the former Premier who publicly slandered Mr Chaytor never did provide a belated apology.

More recently an Australian rugby league sports star, Robert Lui, came under the media spotlight for a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. It should be noted that he pleaded guilty to this incident in Court.

The Court as a result, knowing all the facts of the matter, imposed a non-custodial sentence on Robert Lui, which has involved counselling for both him and his girlfriend. The Court took into account that the couple are still very much together and expecting a baby.

However last week, the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARL) decided, without speaking to Robert Lui or his girlfriend, and contrary to the recommendations of Lui’s own rugby league club, to suspend the star from playing football for a year, with the likelihood of the star losing his complete salary for this year and the beginning of next year.

This action by the Commission was apparently to show it was serious about rubbing out domestic violence, but someone should have informed this sporting body that this is the role of a Court. The ARL is not the judge and jury of our legal guilt or innocence, it is merely a sporting administration entity.

With such dire implications to otherwise legally innocent people, one has to question when in our democracy did we actually vote to usurp our legal system and hand over the judgments of our guilt or innocence to unrepresentative big brother style organisations who have no accountability to anyone but themselves?

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Posted by on April 17, 2012. Filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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