Mikakos had made comments recently that lawyers acting for children detained in the Grevillea Unit of the prison had placed their own concerns ahead of their clients’ best interests.
LIV president Belinda Wilson and Victorian Bar president Jennifer Batrouney QC said they were disappointed the Minister questioned the lawyers’ professionalism. This runs counter to the Court of Appeal even commending the legal teams “for their exemplary discharge of their professional duties.”
The Court had said “the quality of the material filed was quite remarkable, given the tight deadlines which had to be imposed.”
The Court had sided with the lawyers, invalidating the Minister’s decision to establish a youth detention centre at Barwon Prison.
In a subsequent interview with the ABC and posts on Twitter, the Minister had implied that the lawyers acted unethically and unprofessionally, a statement released by the LIV and the Vic Bar said.
“The legal profession is bound by a strong ethical code, breach of which entails serious professional consequences,” said Batrouney. ”These lawyers represented some of the most vulnerable members of our community, children who are incarcerated. The lawyers were acting on the instructions of their clients in accordance with the law.”
Wilson noted how the Minister’s comments undermine the authority of the court to uphold the law.
“Lawyers play a key role in preserving the separation of powers and the rule of law by invoking the jurisdiction of the courts to ensure that ministers and public officials exercise their power within legal limits,” said Wilson.
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The Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar have condemned criticism made against the lawyers for children detained at Barwon Prison, saying they are deeply concerned by recent comments by the Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos.