The Rule of Law has recently been raised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Attorney-General Christian Porter in defence of historic sexual assault allegations levelled at the latter. The term rule of law has been raised so many times in the past few days that it has almost become part of the general vernacular. It is not an everyday term but it does offer universal protection.
So What is the Rule of Law?
The rule of law protects individuals from unjust treatment. It is an ancient principle that can be traced back to the Athenian philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) who emphasised that it is the rule of law and not the rule of men that brings about a just and civilised society.
The rule of law is an inherent part of the Australian Constitution. It is there to guarantee that every person is subject to the prevailing laws of Australia irrespective of who they are or their status in society.
Individuals are protected by having the right to silence when questioned by police or anyone for that matter and to the presumption of innocence. In criminal cases the burden of proof rests with the state and the standard of proof is high — beyond reasonable doubt.
Further, the rule of law enlarges to ensure that no-one can be convicted of an offence or have their legal rights impinged other than in accordance with the prevailing laws and after due process has been followed during any investigation. Due process may result in charges being brought or it may not in which case the person is free to move on with their life.
An accused pleading not guilty to a criminal charge can only be convicted after the evidence has been scrutinized and tested in court and the court is satisfied that the charge/s are made out beyond reasonable doubt.
Rule of Law Protection
The rule of law protects Christian Porter by demanding that any allegations are properly investigated and if a case exists to charge then charge/s are to be preferred. He has the presumption of innocence and he is not required to answer any questions or even offer an explanation.
Trial by media falls so far short of the rule of law — it undermines any citizen’s legal rights to the protections afforded by the rule of law.