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Pick a criminal case with forensic evidence that has resulted in an amendment of case law or legislation, or which raises a major issue in law, in an Australian State of Territory, and discuss appropriately. Your discussion should include a consideration Essay Example

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The Cairns Case

The Cairns Case

The Cairns case was one of the most published criminal cases in Queensland, an Australian state. As the book “Criminal Laws in Australia” by Baganic explains, this case captured the attention of all the medical field practitioners including the public medical personnel in the whole of Australia. The case concerned a Cairn’s woman of 19-years old, charged in the Queensland criminal court under section 225.

The lady was charged with procured miscarriage. As Butler reports, the woman’s partner was charged along with her. It was claimed that her collaborator was charged in the Queensland Criminal Code under section 226 for assisting her. The hearing of the case was done in the month of October, 2010 in Cairns District Court. The couple was accused for making a local arrangement to get a drug that helped in carrying out abortions. The couple requested a relative to send a supply of the drug called Misoprostal along with a supply of mifeprostone, to carry out the abortion. Butler reports that it was claimed that the woman administered some drugs in order to terminate successfully her 40 days old pregnancy.

According to the book, “Criminal law: Texts and Cases” by Waller, it reports that the major reason as to why the couple decided to terminate the pregnancy, was due to their age. It is reported that the couple decided that they were not ready to be parents at that young age; they were not ready for that responsibility at the time. It was also claimed that the couple had not sought information concerning the availability of abortions in Cairns. Waller reports that the forensic evidence carried on the woman by the doctors, showed that the woman had in fact carried the abortion. According to Waller, the couple faced an imprisonment of 10 years if found guilty of the offences which were brought under the Criminal Code Provision relating to abortions.

The book “Sentencing and Punishment in Australia in the 1990s” by Freiberg, reports that this case captured a lot of attention from journalist, religious people, to politicians. The most affected were the medical practitioners. This is because this was the first case in which a woman in Queensland was charged for opting to carry out an abortion. Freiberg explains that the religious people supported the charges claiming that this would enhance good morals particularly among the youths. The issue became politicized; this is because more than half of the population opposed the verdict of the judge. This made the politicians oppose the case also, so as not to lose their people’s political backup.

According to the book, “A State of Injustice” by Moles, reports that the impact of the Cairns case to medical people was so great. Following these charges, 2 doctors from Cairn stopped offering medical abortion in June 2009. They feared that their patients would be charged in the court over the same issue resulting into their exposure to law. Following the withdrawal of these two doctors others throughout the Queensland state followed suit. Moles report that things became worse when the doctors providing abortion within public hospitals also ceased from doing that.

Baganic continues to report that, it was this withdrawal of public doctors that put pressure on the Queensland government to act. This is because it was claimed that only public doctors offered abortion services to women, seeking termination after diagnosis of fatal abnormality, fatal death or maternal illnesses. Therefore, the section 282 of the Queensland Criminal Code was amended in September 2009. Baganic points out that the section does not relate with abortions specifically but provides a defense for doctors who were taken to court in relation to performing any procedure unlawfully.

According to Waller, the old version of section 282 stated that a person was not to be taken to be a criminal for performing in a good faith, and with reasonable care and skill, a surgical operation upon any person for the patient’s benefit, or upon an unborn child for the preservation of the mother’s life. The section clarified further that, a doctor was not to be regarded as a criminal if their service of the operation is reasonable, bearing the state of the patient during the time and to all circumstances of the case.

According to Mole, it explains that the old version was revised to the benefits of the doctors who offered the abortion services. The new version states that a person is not to be held as a criminal for practicing, in good faith and with proper care and skills, a surgical operation on or medical treatment of:

  1. A person or unborn child for the sake of the patient or

  2. A person or unborn child to preserve the mother’s life: If performing the operation or providing the medical treatment is reasonable, having consideration to the patient’s state at the time and to all circumstances of the case.

As Mole explains further, the government further created a clause that supported the revised version. This clause further benefited the doctors offering the abortion services. This is because it became legal for them to use this clause to shield themselves. This in addition, offered a degree of protection to women considering medical abortion. Due to all these concerns from different groups and the amendments done to abortion law in Queensland, the Cairns case took a different route. In October 2010, the jury brought down their verdict, where the couple was found not guilty. My consideration on the changes made on abortion law in Queensland is that the changes were appropriate. This is because it gave the public doctors to continue giving their services to women in critical medical conditions due to their pregnancies.

The above criminal case attracted the attention of many stakeholders including even the government. It led to the amendment of the law that governed abortions in Queensland.


Baganic, M. Criminal Laws in Australia: Cases and Materials. Melbourne: Oxford University Press; 2004

Freiberg, A. Sentencing and punishment in Australia in the 1990s. New York: University of Oxford Press; 2009

Moles, R. A State of Injustice. Southern Melbourne: Lothian Press; 2004.

Waller, L. Criminal Laws: Texts and Cases: Butterworth: Lexis Nexis publishers.