'Cash for comment' but imprisonment for attempting to speak out against the power given to banks.
If the issues raised did not have such serious ramifications the reaction of the NSW courts and judiciary to Mr Wilson's questions could be viewed as high farce.
The background to the concerns of Mr Wilson
Recent decades have seen massive changes in Australia. One such change, said by
government to provide competition and better services for consumers was to
deregulate Banks. New law, including a revised consumer credit act, was introduced.
One effect has been to make contracts with banks over the money you borrow not the
certain matter they had been in the past. Today such contracts if written in plain
English (which of course they are not) could be said to be along the lines of :
A few years ago Mr Wilson was reviewing his financial records. He had a mortgage over his house with a bank and had continually made repayments as the bank required. To his astonishment in looking at a recent mortgage account statement he found that he now owed the bank much more than when he first took out the mortgage. He felt defrauded.
Mr Wilson is not the only person effected by the way the banks do business. Banks had been getting very bad press as their profits soared, rural branches closed, and banks exercised their power to sell off houses and farms when people got into arrears with mortgage payments.
Indeed the public view of banks got so bad that certain banks started paying large sums of money (of the order of half a million dollars) to certain much listened to radio presenters. Thus mixed in with other items and not clearly presented as advertisements came comment on what good people those bankers were. Eventually in 1999 their cover was blown by the ABC TV program Media Watch. The practice was stopped in what became known as the "cash for comment" hearings before a tribunal that regulates the business ethics of broadcasters.
Mr Wilson felt that massive deception by the banks was the central issue and that variable rate loan contracts were not legal or constitutional. He felt this issue needed to be heard by a jury and so in 1996 he started an action against his bank.
The reality of Australian Courts
However he soon found the bank had a very powerful supporter because of the way that trial by jury had been largely removed in New South Wales. In essence what happened was that a judge could simply refuse trial by jury, find that variable meant fixed and just throw the case out of court.
Mr Wilson got nowhere except to get charged with contempt of court when he objected to what a judge said. However the contempt charges, for which Mr Wilson sought trial by jury, were then dropped. Mr Wilson writes as follows of what took place:
A Theatrical Act ...
The frustration of being denied access to a jury led to Mr Wilson in 1977 taking seven judges (Greenwood, Hamilton, Clarke, Abadee, Dawson, Toohey & Kirby) to the Supreme Court charging them with civil wrong. With the possibility in mind that the judges could run true to their past form and so yet again just dismiss his case Mr Wilson came prepared to act in such a way that his case got some publicity. He determined to be ready to carry out a harmless but clearly symbolic act to publicly express his view of the judges and their view as to due process at law. His action would be theatrical in nature and thus he hoped would not be ignored by the mass media as his case had been.
Thus on 25 July 1997 when Justice Murray had finished and was in process of rising to leave, having dismissed the case saying that judges were immune from suit, Mr Wilson threw a small plastic bag containing yellow paint at him. It made a 7mm yellow mark on the judge's suit and then fell onto the desk. A surprised judge turned and left the courtroom without a word as court officers pounced on a static Mr Wilson.
... but still no access to a jury
Mr Wilson was charged under Section 326 of the Crimes Act 1900 but when he demanded trial by jury the Director of Public prosecutions, Mr. N. Cowdrey, withdrew the charges even though Mr Wilson had been imprisoned for a period of three days. Mr Wilson had thus been imprisoned but never had a hearing of the charges. The solicitor for the D.P.P., Mr. P. Morgan, also had the bail conditions altered three weeks after the incident.
The D.P.P. had thus acted to ensure that Mr Wilson would not get access to a jury.
When Mr Wilson was again charged over the matter of the yellow paint it was on two counts of contempt of court, the judge perhaps triumphal in saying to Mr Wilson then 'You do not get trial by jury for contempt of court'.
Mr Wilson appealed the refusal to provide trial by jury for contempt of court and in April 1999 his application was heard in the High Court of Australia. Here three judges found the rules of the Supreme Court of NSW were superior to the laws and constitution of Australia, and thus to any international treaties the Commonwealth of Australia had signed and ratified
Mr Wilson, self representing, had personally made the points, to no avail, that contempt of court was actually defined in Australian Commonwealth law not NSW law and that the 1988 referendum to change the Australian Constitution to exclude trial by jury from contempt of court, was defeated by the Australian People by the highest 'No' vote ever recorded in a referendum,.
Things moved quickly in late 1999 when on 9 November Justice Wood sentenced Mr Wilson to two years without parole on the contempt charges, saying in part :
Mr Wilson thus classified as a belligerent criminal beyond rehabilitation and was placed in the high security prison facility at Silverwater in Sydney. Mr Wilson being a dentist by profession now also faced the additional sanction of being de-registered and losing his profession because of the length of sentence imposed.
The legal 'end game'
While Mr Wilson was thus incarcerated efforts were made by various organisations including OVOP to raise the issues inherent in his imprisonment. OVOP referred Mr Wilson's imprisonment without proper trial to the UN human rights commission as a breach of international treaty obligations. Various people contacted their MP's. Mr Wilson was examined by psychiatrists who found that he had no mental illnesses at all but rather that he was acting from a position of having a strong sense of morals, felt a responsibility to the wider community over the issues in the case and did honestly hold to his views.
On 16 February 2000 three judges heard the appeal. On 29 February a majority judgement handed down meant that Mr Wilson was released from custody that same day. However the denial of any right to trial by jury was upheld, and the nature of the judgement should raised concerns since it read in part as follows about the appellant, Mr Wilson :
Other aspects of the judgement also have direct implications for how Australian courts view citizen's rights.
The NSW Court of Appeal in its 23 February judgement dismissed Mr Wilson's request for a jury trial declaring his request as: "…amounting to an abuse of the process of the Court".
Mr Wilson had amongst other things in his appeal submission to the court put
The following facts need to be noted in relation to the attitude of the Australian
judiciary to Mr Wilson's human rights and protections available to him under the
Australian Constitution and international law.
Mr Wilson notified the Australian Government about the serious questions in regards
to the violation of the Australian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights but no action has been taken by government.
Mr Wilson sees the situation as one where the judges have committed a number of serious offences and intends to take the issues to the UN Human Rights Commission.
For more information visit Mr Wilson's website at
The transcript of an interview with Mr Wilson from the ABC Radio National Program of
Tuesday, May 11, 1999 can be found on the Radio National website:
With; the irregular actions in withdrawing charges without proper explanation apparently to ensure Mr Wilson could not gain access to a jury trial ; with the blocking of discovery as to how the Banks acquire loan funds; and in the light of views expressed by a legal expert on the ABC Radio Law Report program of May 1999, the public are left facing a number of unanswered questions about banks and judges in Australia.
A question also remains as to why an Australian cannot have the protections of Australian law and international covenants Australia has signed when in a New South Wales court.
Can it really be that legally variable means fixed ? and that New South Wales is not part of Australia ?
But it seems unlikely that the Australian government that presents itself overseas as democratic and representative of the Australian people will be providing any answers to such questions. Rather it seems that the people of Australia have no right to even put such questions.
ONE VOICE - ONE PEOPLE is an independent, non-party-political, non-profit organisation committed to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms and to contribute to the promotion and advancement of democratic societies, institutions and processes
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