Justice is an elusive concept.
What it means might be very different, depending on who you ask. Some people might use the word when they really mean vengeance, or retribution. But those things are not the same.
True justice is blind. It casts off your race, your wealth, your age, your sex. It seeks out the facts and the circumstances. It applies the law free from emotion.
It is virtually impossible to ever really find.
The system we have in Australia is designed to try and achieve it. Sometimes, it falls short.
But the difficult truth behind judgements we don’t like is that while we don’t like THOSE particular results, we do want a system based on the principle that everyone deserves fair and equal access to the law. No matter what we think of that person.
This week we’ve seen a few examples of just how messy our justice system can be.
Two men – who are both not very much loved by the general public – have had significant legal victories.
Robert Xie, tried three times for the murder of his brother-in-law Min “Norman” Lin and four members of Mr Lin’s family, has been in jail for four years and seven months without conviction.
His first and second trials were aborted early, and the jury was unable to return a verdict in the third.
He will be released on bail sometime this week, while he waits for a fourth trial.
For many people, the reaction to this news is disgust. “What do judges in their ivory towers know of justice?” They may ask. Charged with killing his family and after hearing a great deal of evidence against him in the previous court cases, we are clearly ready to convict.
But while you may think Robert Xie deserves a life in prison, no court has convicted him. And so, in the eyes of the law he still deserves the same treatment as you or me. The same treatment you or I would want if we had been accused of something and wanted to defend those charges.
We do know however that Gerard Baden-Clay killed his wife.
The legal matter in question however was how? A jury found he had murdered her. But the Queensland Court of Appeal disagreed. They found that the prosecution had not satisfied a key element of the charge of murder. They had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Baden-Clay had intended to kill her. They accepted that it might have been an accident.