Fair Trial: Perspectives on criminal defence lawyer, Shane Herbert (Queensland 1970s-1990s)

Helen Whittle (2011). Fair Trial: Perspectives on criminal defence lawyer, Shane Herbert (Queensland 1970s-1990s) MPhil Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Helen Whittle
Thesis Title Fair Trial: Perspectives on criminal defence lawyer, Shane Herbert (Queensland 1970s-1990s)
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-11
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Dr Stuart Glover
Dr Joan Leach
Total pages 150
Language eng
Subjects 20 Language, Communication and Culture
Abstract/Summary Fair Trial: Perspectives on criminal defence lawyer Shane Herbert is a life-writing project that focuses on the life of Brisbane lawyer Shane Herbert (1955-1995) against a backdrop of social and political change in Queensland from the 1970s to the 1990s. Interviews with family members, friends and acquaintances form the primary sources used to explore questions about reputation, parochial success and the uneasy positioning of the criminal defence lawyer within public perceptions of justice. Shane Herbert was well-known as the ‘bad boy lawyer’ and a colourful character in the Queensland courts. In the early stages of his career, Herbert’s aggressive style of criminal defence in cases such as the McAllan and Lockowicz gay rights case aligned him with the civil liberties movement of the 1970s and early 1980s. In the post-Fitzgerald Inquiry era, Herbert’s continued commitment to aggressive criminal defence isolated him from changing attitudes to justice, including a growing focus on the rights of victims instead of the accused. Herbert’s well-known cases in this period include defence of corrupt police (including former Commissioner Terry Lewis), disgraced politicians (including Ministers Don Lane and Brian Austin), and failed businessman Christopher Skase. In the face of the populist tendency to conflate a lawyer’s personal and political beliefs with the clients or causes they defend, Herbert personified a confident, sometimes arrogant, commitment to the role of the advocate in affording the accused a fair trial. Herbert was an early gentrifier in inner-city West End and enjoyed success and wealth in his career. He was one of Queensland’s youngest appointed QCs and acknowledged as leader of the bar prior to his death in 1995 at the age of 40. Following his death, criticisms of Herbert appeared in the media focusing on allegations of drug use that affected his court performances and allegations of a cover-up of the cause of his death. Fair Trial presents testimony of people who knew Shane Herbert to highlight the quotidian or modest elements of his story, to bring otherwise silent voices into the debate. This functions as a counterweight to the controversy, and makes private a figure who had become highly contested in the public domain. He is revealed as a middle-class boy from the Brisbane suburbs and the first person in his family to gain a tertiary education. He developed a liberal, individualist ethos that swept him along with the popular libertarian and leftist movements of the 1970s but distanced him once the times changed and he continued to defend unpopular causes. Secondary sources include texts by Chris Masters, Margaret Simons, Evan Whitton and Des Sturgess. The critical essay, The problem with life-writing, reflects on the issues of ethics (how should we act?) and epistemology (what can we know?) that arise during the researching and writing of life-writing projects. Popular, critical and institutional engagement with life-writing is dominated by ethical discourse, yet this pre-occupation is shadowed by the contention that prescriptive or abstracted ethics are not enough. Debate about the usefulness of ethical codes and the application of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans to humanities research and life-writing projects is reviewed. The tendency to articulate life-writing grievances in legal terms is discussed with reference to Janet Malcolm’s “bad guy biographers”, Leigh Gilmore’s “alternative jurisprudence”, Paul J Eakin’s “relational identities” and G Thomas Couser’s “vulnerable subjects”. The final part of the essay continues the close reading of Malcolm’s The Silent Woman as a way to explore feminist theories of the ethics of intention and to highlight epistemological approaches that richly engage with the problems of life-writing.
Keyword criminal defence, Shane Herbert, Brisbane law, life-writing, ethics in life-writing

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Created: Mon, 07 Nov 2011, 10:19:54 EST by Ms Helen Whittle on behalf of Library - Information Access Service