Kevin Rudd: Juries should be told about prior convictions

Denise and Bruce Morcombe with Kevin Rudd. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily
Denise and Bruce Morcombe with Kevin Rudd. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily Warren Lynam

FORMER prime minister Kevin Rudd has backed calls to allow juries to hear the prior convictions of child sex offenders and rapists, saying people should be "informed of every relevant matter".

The Chief Justice of Queensland Paul de Jersey made the call earlier this month and already key child safety protection advocates, including the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and Bravehearts, have rallied behind the push.

They say that juries should be told of the people's criminal backgrounds to allow them greater insight into the possible guilt or otherwise of the accused.

"Why for example should a jury be denied knowledge that an alleged rapist committed another rape six months earlier subject to appropriate warning from the judge," Justice de Jersey said earlier this month.

"Common sense and general life experience would militate in favour of not keeping a jury in the dark about such matters.

"I trust the intelligence and wisdom of my fellow citizens. I do not accept a claim that being made aware of prior misconduct, jurors would automatically say well he did that so he must have done this."

Justice de Jersey said such a system had been in place for 10 years in the UK.

Queensland Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie has said he is prepared to look at the call.

Mr Rudd was asked about the issue during the Dance for Daniel at Caloundra on Saturday night.

The former PM said it was vital that the protection of children was given top priority in Australia, including through the judicial system.

"One of the great advantages I have had in national political life is never to have been a lawyer," Mr Rudd said to widespread laughter.

"So fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

"But let me say…what is good about the country and jury system is that we rely upon common sense and common judgment, informed of every relevant matter.

"My own personal view is that includes relevant prior matters as well."

>> Rock star reception for Rudd at Dance for Daniel

Mr Rudd said he was confident the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Australia, which followed an outcry over the Catholic church's failure to deal with abuse, would see changes.

"There is nothing more basic in life, nothing more fundamental than the protection of children.

"And when that has not occurred, like we heard from a young man before, something inside of our hearts says it is wrong, it's just wrong. There is no excuse.

"So what do we expect of this by way of an outcome?

"My single greatest hope and expectation…is that we have a uniform system in this country which places first and foremost the protection of children in every piece of legislation, every statue, every regulation and every adopted protocol within every community and church organisation in the country

"And zero tolerance (for abuse)."

Mr Rudd was congratulated for his stance by the Morcombes and Bravehearts' founder Hetty Johnston who was also attended the Daniel Morcombe Foundation fundraiser.

Topics:  kevin rudd politics

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