What is justice? How does our legal system work? How can we trust a system that is so changeable and widely criticised? And are our laws really effective? These are some of the fundamental questions that former Supreme Court judge Ken Crispin sets out to answer in this enlightening and thought-provoking book.
The law is one of the cornerstones of western democracy, and the judiciary one of its most cherished institutions. From a heritage of feudalism and repression, our highly complex criminal-justice system has evolved to encompass a respect for social values and the rights of individuals. Recently, however, it has become obvious that rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom from detention without trial are becoming increasingly endangered. The ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric of police and politicians, the ‘war on drugs’, the ‘reforms’ designed to increase conviction rates, and the loss of rights due to fear of terrorism all point to an erosion of justice in western societies. Are we any safer as a consequence? Or could our flight from long-defended principles actually be making things worse?
Ken Crispin’s wealth of experience on both sides of the bar — from appearing for high-profile defendants such as Lindy and Michael Chamberlain to prosecuting murderers and rapists, and later sitting on the ACT Supreme Court bench — makes him the ideal guide for finding a way through these thorny legal thickets. Having witnessed the anguish of those crying out for justice throughout his career, Crispin lays bare the strengths and weaknesses of the legal system with great clarity and compassion. Compelling and easily comprehensible, but never simplistic, this is the definitive guide to justice as we know it.
'Ken Crispin draws on his wealth of experience as a barrister and Supreme Court judge in this comprehensive study of the history and philosophy of our legal system ... Crispin’s philosophical discussion of law and
justice is also grounded in contemporary issues, such as
refugee rights and mandatory sentencing, and he writes
persuasively and precisely, as if giving a judicial ruling on
the performance of the entire system of justice. Crispin
is a liberal thinker, advocating a less punitive focus in
favour of policies that save lives. He also looks beyond the
courtroom to address issues of public and social policy,
discussing the ‘so-called’ war on drugs in terms of the
courts, the police, education and health programmes. The Quest for Justice is an informative study of our legal
system and the policies that have shaped it and is a cogent
analysis of how justice can be better administered.'
Portia Lindsay, Bookseller & Publisher
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'Reading this book encourages reflection about both our society and those who are paid to make decisions about the lawfulness, or otherwise, of actions civil and criminal. It is convenient to have so many contentious issues pressed together in the one place. Any inquiring mind will be engaged by the facts and opinions, entertained by some wicked and poignant anecdotes, and confronted by the realities that "personal morality" runs a poor race in any contest where "community fear" is also a starter.'
Hugh Selby, Canberra Times
'In this fascinating examination of the Australian legal system, Ken Crispin offers the unique perspective of a man who has been a criminal lawyer (he defended Michael and Lindy Chamberlain), the ACT director of public prosecutions, a Supreme Court judge and the president of the ACT Court of Appeal ... The Quest for Justice poses some questions that would never have occurred to a layperson, and answers them in powerful, practical and lucid language. Regardless of where on the political spectrum you sit, Crispin's insightful book is a worthwhile read.'
'This book is a multifaceted, dynamic and unflinching analysis of the author's "quest for justice"... [it] extends beyond the parameters of the law, and addresses social, political, historical and philosophical considerations. The author combats myths and misconceptions originating from oversimplified, or overtly politicised, views of the criminal justice system. Admirably, Dr Crispin possesses an authorial voice of empathy and compassion, particularly towards vulnerable participants in the criminal justice system: victims, marginalised offenders and their families.The Quest for Justice is an essential read for practitioners, students and laypersons. Justice, at its conceptual core, touches everyone in society. This book challenges the reader to engage in constructive examination of justice, the law, the legal system, and the judiciary. Dr Crispin advocates for an authentic pursuit of justice, a quest that necessitates the affirmation and protection of fundamental human rights.'
Law Institute Journal
'Clearly a man of compassion who has navigated his way though many legal minefields, Crispin offers an eloquent, accessible and utterly compelling snapshot of Australian justice that poses crucial questions for all of us.'
Sunday Mail Brisbane
'This is a book for all people with a concern for justice. Ken Crispin's dedication to justice has been unflagging; his discussion of its complexities is admirable; his distress at witnessing injustice is plain. When Crispin was a judge of the ACT Supreme Court, he expressed himself with appropriate judicial restraint. It is a pleasure to see that he has shed some of that restraint along with the robes of office. His discussion of the post 9-11 world does not flinch from the truth. His analysis of the West's response to 9-11 exposes how democracy failed us as fear and vengeance trumped principle. In his discussion of Binyam Mohamed's case he recognises Guantanamo Bay for what it is: a concentration camp which too many Australians tolerated, silently, far too long.'
Julian Burnside QC