Lawyers representing Manus Island detainees in a class action have welcomed a landmark decision by the Victorian Supreme Court to live-stream the upcoming trial to a global audience.
The Court recognised live-streaming was necessary to ensure access to justice for the significant proportion of group members who had no prospect of attending the hearing in person.
Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Rory Walsh said the Court rejected applications to oppose and restrict access to live-streaming.
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“The Commonwealth originally opposed live-streaming proceedings completely, even to group members for whom it would be impossible to attend” Mr Walsh said.
“They later changed their position, arguing access to the stream should not be available to the general public, but instead should be restricted to the group members.
“The Supreme Court rejected this approach, citing the high degree of public interest, which extends well beyond those who live in Victoria.
“We were not surprised the Commonwealth opposed this approach, but we are heartened that the treatment of group members at the Manus Detention Centre will now be properly tested in an Australian Court in an open and publically accessible manner.”
Mr Walsh said this is believed to be an Australian first.
“As far as we’re aware, this is the first time Australian Court proceedings will be streamed overseas” Mr Walsh said.
“The potential size of the class is 1,905 people, the majority of whom (approximately 1,500) are either overseas or still in detention either on Manus Island or in Australia.
“This case will be the largest and most forensic public examination of the events and conditions at the Manus Island Detention centre, which have been shrouded in secrecy until now.
“Live-streaming the trial online means these group members and the general public will be able to view the proceedings that will affect and may finally determine the rights of these detainees.
“We are prepared for a long trial and have fought hard to overcome numerous legal hurdles to ensure the evidence of whistle-blowers, experts and, most importantly, the detainees will be heard.”