Most students will experience some apprehension and nervousness as their learning for 2014 is assessed in Legal Studies. I look forward to sitting down on Tuesday evening on the 11 November 2014 and sitting the examination at home myself. Here is some final advice:

The examiner’s comments suggest that committal hearings and directions proceedings  have been answered poorly in 2012 and 2013. I know that some students struggle with this topic. Whilst I never bet or gamble, I would presume there will be a question on this area of the law in 2014. Committal hearings are confrontational. A person is facing the Magistrate’s Court to see if a trial will proceed that may see them being sent to prison. The police and Department of Public Prosecution need to convince the Magistrate that enough evidence exists (prima facie) for a likely conviction in a higher court. A defendant may decide to plead guilty at this stage. Committal hearings can indeed save time and money if the process is streamlined by a defendant choosing that course.

However, defendants with an expert legal team can use committal hearings to delay a case and remain on bail while evidence is collected. With such processes as committal mention hearings where time lags occur, witnesses are arranged and evidence is gathered and presented. Time lags create stress and problems for the accused and indeed any other parties involved in the case. The media can also become involved especially in crimes of violence.

The examiner suggests that an evaluation question requires more than text book memorising. It requires an opinion. Opinions require the presentation of strengths and weaknesses. Your final conclusion should match your opening opinion. It will show you have given the matter some thought and have even used a case as an example to back your argument.

The 2012 examiner’s report indicates a poor understanding of the position of the Supreme Court (Court of Appeal) in the hierarchy of courts in Victoria. Three judges sitting on an appeal in the Supreme Court (Court of Appeal) from a case heard by a judge in the Supreme Court (Trial Division) is a good way to show how the hierarchy works. The Court of Appeal is the highest Victorian appeal court.

Read the examiner’s reports for the last few years. They contain insights into what the examiner is looking for. Good clear handwriting is important from the start of the paper to the finish. Don’t spend too much time on questions worth 1,2 or 3 marks. The real achievement is successfully completing the questions worth 7,8,9 or 10 marks. These types of questions require good sentence structure. Each idea should be in a paragraph. A short plan will enable you to stay on task and ensure you have covered all of the points to achieve a good grade in a difficult question.

Remain calm in the exam. There are no tricks here. The examiner is looking for your knowledge in Legal Studies. Show your mastery of the subject by using legal terminology. Address the difficult questions with the correct case law that explains how a process works.

Finally, embrace the Tasmanian Dam Case which has a tab at the top of this page. It is without doubt one of the most significant cases in my lifetime. It started the Greens Movement in Australia which has spread around the world. It has proven our Constitution is a robust instrument and that our Federation indeed always meant to protect our nation from greed. A complex case, one thousand people arrested. The High Court case was Tasmania versus the Commonwealth of Australia and it has provided environmental protection for wilderness areas all around Australia. Something that creates optimism in even the hardest of hearts.

Peter F Hughes





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