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High-profile court cases raise question of justice

IT IS hard to imagine a child sex offender and a celebrity chef having anything in common.

But Douglas Jackway and Nigella Lawson both fell victim to legal systems with no duty to protect their rights.

The minute the previously untarnished Lawson admitted some drug use, she spent as much time in the witness box as the two women accused of defrauding her and faced more hostile cross-examination.

Few would feel sorry for the barrage of questioning and allegations Jackway copped, given his history.

But neither of them was on trial.

At least Jackway was allowed to have legal representatives in the courtroom ready to step in to protect his interests.

Lawson was not allowed that privilege.

Before the jury came in, Jackway was repeatedly warned he could not reveal anything about Cowan's history.

He was visibly agitated, knowing full well his history would be revealed to the world through the intense media coverage of the Daniel Morcombe case.

Australian-born human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC questioned whether the treatment of Lawson - his former girlfriend - during the London trial was "the right way to treat a witness".

"Criminal justice is dependent upon the willingness of witnesses to testify in public - a nerve-racking experience," he said in an article in The Guardian.

"If they or their family can be vilified, in the defamation-free zone of a courtroom, then they will be reluctant to do this civic duty.

"This case could undermine confidence that the justice system will be fair to them, however scrupulously it protects the rights of defendants."

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said that case had similarities to the Cowan-Jackway situation.

He said although the jury ultimately rejected the proposition Jackway was responsible for Daniel's death, he acknowledged that "there is a certain level of unfairness to the other character".

Topics:  court daniel morcombe douglas jackway editors picks justice nigella lawson witnesses



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