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Australian due process is bankrupt ?

This case shows that Australian court systems and legal practictioners can go to great pains to ensure that they remain ignorant as to the facts of a case. Injustice is not an issue that the law courts have to recognise and so no mechanisms exist in Australia to right wrongs that such operation of the courts may produce. Since the official view seems to be that the courts by definition are not perfect and the legal outcome is the legal outcome and that is that.

An outline summary of some aspects of the case is contained in a 1996 press report that appeared in a Sydney Newspaper as follows ...

A millionaire who lost the lot


THIS is a story of injustice. Cruel, criminal, cold injustice.
As a result, a man's life has been ruined, financially and socially.
The victim, Raymond Latona of Baulkham Hills has held himself together with will power and the devotion of his family.
There is a tragic dimension to Mr Latona's tireless efforts to gain compensation for his stolen property and wealth. He is slowly dying from an inoperable brain tumour.
His courageous lone fight for justice has won him allies in the highest courts in the land and from the highest office-holders includ-ing Prime Minister John Howard.
While everyone agrees that 55-year-old Mr Latona has been shamefully wronged, no one is willing to take the next step to rectify the damage.
One factor is undoubtedly the sheer size of the compensation he is due, It's around $28 million, though negotiable.
He isn't the proletarian battler fighting capitalist plutocrats. On the contrary, he's a former multi-millionaire who is a Liberal loyalist, an ardent royalist, and a man whose life has been driven by the conservative certainties of honour, good manners and respectability.
This makes it almost impossible for him to understand what has happened to his life.
"Can you believe this?" he asked plaintively.
"It's like a nightmare and I keep thinking that maybe I'll wake up and it won't be true."
The nightmare began in 1982 when he was taken to court and declared bankrupt over an alleged debt of $11,000 to a building firm.
To Raymond and Mary Latona, the sum was almost a pittance but it triggered a bitter legal dispute which resulted in their bankruptcy even though they had vast assets to cover the original debt.

Worse was to come when the Trustee in Bankruptcy was appointed to dispose of the Latonas' assets.
A beach house on the exclusive Mackerel Bay dress circle opposite Palm Beach was sold for just $47,000 even though it was inde-pendently valued at $120,000 (1985 prices)

His magnificent collection of 25 cars, including a Mercedes Benz, and vintage Vauxhalls went for $11,000.

A Kellyville home set in spacious grounds was dispatched for $60,000 and another house at
Kingsford for $50,000.

 But the greatest travesty was the sale of his 2ha property known as Vineyard on the Windsor Road. Independently valued between $850,000 and $1 million it was auctioned for $300,500 even though a finance company acting for Mr Latona offered $400,000.

A boat worth $27,000 was seized and sold for $5,200.

In Mr Latona's words: "We had nowhere to live and we had no money."
In Federal Parliament, Liberal MP for Mitchell Alan Cadman claimed the family's assets had been sold for between $500,000 and $900,000 less than their worth.
Liberal Party heavyweights such as Mr Cadman, Nick Greiner, former Hills MP Fred Caterson and Baulkham Hills MP Wayne Merton rallied in support of the Latonas.
Former NSW Ombudsman George Masterman wrote to Police Commissioner John Avery in 1985 drawing attention to the police involvement in Mr Latona's plight.
"Documents [from Mr Latona] raise serious allegations of default by police in carrying out their duty," said Mr Masterman.
"They suggest that there might have been serious criminal activity on the part of certain persons ...
In 1994, then Opposition Leader John Howard wrote to Labor's Attorney-General Michael Lavarch championing Mr Latona's right to compensation.
He said Mr and Mrs Latona had good reason to believe that fraudu-lent documents had been used against them.
Imagine Mr Latona's grave disappointment when his State MP Wayne Merton received a letter on the new Prime Minister's notepaper in June, signed by senior adviser Catherine Murphy, which said: "The Prime Minister has long been aware of the unfortunate position of Mr and Mrs Latona

"While it would be desirable that the matter be resolved as soon as practicable, I regret that the Prime Minister is unable to intervene in the legal matters of individual Australians."

After having a series of legal advisers, Mr Latona has engaged Parramatta solicitor Ross Barwick, son of former Federal Attorney-General and High Court Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick, who has begun proceedings to reopen the case.
On the evidence, Mr Barwick believes the Latonas should not have been bankrupted because they were not insolvent and their assets were sold at "giveaway" prices.

To date no path has been uncovered by the legal profession, right up to the chief law officer of Australia, that will serve to address the several issues in this case, such as fraud, 3 deaths, forged documents, the police role, and perjury ... let alone any path to any compensation for Mr and Mrs Latona.

The Latonas did get support from their MP. Indeed when in opposition the leader of the Opposition, John Howard, did write in an attempt to get the then Attorney-General to take action. But this was to no effect.

Two years later John Howard was in power as Prime Minister of Australia.

However as seems to be the rule in such cases it is much easier to suggest something be done to right a clear wrong when powerless and sitting in the opposition benches than when in power. Thus all that the Latonas could get in 1996 via their MP was advice that the Prime Minister was unable to intervene.

The result to date is that the authorities have found they can do nothing over this case. However to OVOP many violations of local statute law and international covenants appear to be involved.

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