Death penalty tackled at law lecture

The legacy left by the execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, and the fight against the death penalty, were the burning issues discussed as the law community honoured one of their finest peers at a lecture in Sydney.

Australian Catholic University’s Thomas More Law School hosted the fifth annual Honourable Barry O’Keefe Memorial Lecture at the North Sydney campus.

Law experts, students and academics heard from Australia’s best-known opponent of capital punishment Julian McMahon.

A barrister with more than two decades of experience on the Victorian bar, Mr McMahon has been at the centre of some of the country’s most notorious overseas death penalty cases, including his representation in 2015 of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Introducing the lecture topic ‘Why isn’t the death penalty dying? Or is it?’, ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Greg Craven was unapologetic about the University’s condemnation of capital punishment.

“Our University’s support of Julian’s campaign was simply born of the recognition that we have a duty to do all we can to stop people being killed by judicial process,” he said.

“When a government decides to kill citizens — whether they are citizens of their own nation, or of another — that government becomes a killer. A legal system that views life as sacred simply cannot stand there and allow a government to take a life.”

Barry O’Keefe was an Australian judge and lawyer who served as a justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 1993 to 2004 and the Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption from 1994 until 1999.

His ethos of service was reflected in his term as an alderman on Mosman Council from 1968 to 1991, as president of the Local Government Association of NSW and the National Trust of Australia, and as a member of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.

The Thomas More Law School presented 26 of its bachelor degree students with Executive Dean’s Commendations at the lecture. 

Commendations were presented to: Gabrielle Agius, Naffy Buritica Toro, Gareth Burke, Jacqueline Dagelet, Jennifer Doria, Karlis Draguns, Gabrielle Ellis, George El-Mourani, Edwina Foschini, Thomas Frisina, Nadine Holterman, Amber Hunt, Danielle Lamborn, Jay Mark, Michael Maure, Sophie Morgan, Kate Mylott, Monica Nakhla, Sean Payne, Heidi Pfeiffer, Carolina Reveco Flores, Celeste Schreiber, Leanne Sharp, Alexander Shepherd, Rachel Stanton, Kate Young.

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