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Elements Of The Legal Adversary System: Dietrich V. The Queen

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One of the elements of the legal adversary system is to ensure there is legal representation willingly actionized for a fair trial to occur. The 1992 High Court case Dietrich v The Queen (177 CLR 292) bought attention to exactly this – the rights to a fair trial and fair hearing rights. The High Court case focused on the granting of state funded legal representation when the indigent accused is underrepresented and in what circumstances this request should be granted. The case is an important one in the development of both Australian law and Australian constitutional law.

The original case prior to the test case (High Court appeal) was a trial accusing Olaf Dietrich of importing at least seventy grams of the drug heroin into Australia, by concealing the drug in condoms and swallowing them. The initial trial begun in the County Court of Victoria in 1988 for a trafficking offence in the Customs Act 1901. The trial was lengthy, in which Dietrich had no legal representation. Dietrich sought assistance from the Victorian Legal Aid Commission but was denied any assistance unless he pled guilty, an option that Dietrich refused to take. Dietrich also applied to the Supreme Court for assistance, but
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Solutions were for state legal aid commissions to maintain ‘emergency funds’ for use in complex criminal cases and the amending of the Crimes Act 1958 to enable judges to directly order criminal counsel for the accused instead of ordering adjournment. The case of Dietrich v The Queen significantly changed legal aid provisions in trials across Australia and addressed the issue of underrepresentation in legal processes, further improving the deliverance of justice in Australian
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