Catch the Fire case - Application for a Judicial Review
Following the decision by Judge Michael Higgins (December 2004), Catch the Fire Ministries, Pastor Daniel Scot and Pastor Danny Nalliah lodged an application (or writ) at the Supreme Court of Victoria asking for a judicial review of the decision.
The legal team prepared documents detailing concerns about procedures of the hearing, including errors made by the judge, and made the application against all parties - the Islamic Council of Victoria, Judge Higgins and VCAT.
[Many people asked if an 'appeal' will be made against the decision. A formal 'appeal' can only be made on errors in 'law' - not against errors in fact or procedural matters. This application for a 'judicial review' was seen as the only way of 'appealing against the 'decision'.]
A summons was served on all parties, requiring them to attend a Directions hearing at the Supreme Court on Thursday 21 April 2005.
This was a brief hearing to deal with arrangements for the lodging of affidavits and setting a date for a hearing.
Once the 'penalty' was announced in June 2005, the parties decided to lodge an appeal with Victoria's Court of Appeal. Since CTFM and the pastors could not run both a 'judicial review' and an 'appeal, they decided to withdraw the application for a judicial review.
The following article appeared in The Age in Melbourne - giving more details of the application for a judicial review.
Hate case judge 'showed irredeemable bias'
The Age, Barney Zwartz, April 11, 2005.
Full article: "The judge in Victoria's first religious hatred case showed "irredeemable bias" and "idiosyncratic and erroneous opinions", lawyers for a Christian group claim in documents filed with the Supreme Court.Catch the Fire, the Christian group judged to have vilified Muslims in breach of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, has applied to the Supreme Court to dismiss the ruling. In December Judge Michael Higgins found that Catch the Fire and pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot vilified Muslims at a seminar in 2002, in a newsletter and in a website article. Judge Higgins found in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that Mr Scot made fun of Muslims in a way that was "hostile, demeaning and derogatory", and that his conduct was not for a genuinely religious purpose or in the public interest (which the act makes exempt). The application, which claims the act is unconstitutional, lists 16 grounds, including the jurisdiction of the judge, errors in the act and errors by Judge Higgins. Lawyers for Catch the Fire and the two pastors have asked the court to find the act invalid or to quash the decision or hear the case again.
The application for a judicial review is not an appeal, but if successful would have the same effect. It claims VCAT lacked jurisdiction because Judge Higgins said he could not rule on whether the act was constitutional, a federal matter and an important part of the defence.
It also lists 106 claimed errors by the judge, ranging from "irredeemable bias" against Mr Scot and denial of natural justice to misunderstanding the nature of religious conviction. It says Judge Higgins imposed "an irrelevant religious orthodoxy of (his) own creation".
The application says Judge Higgins indicated during the hearing that he would not make findings about Islamic doctrine but abandoned that course, using his "own unventilated views" and "idiosyncratic and erroneous opinions" to judge the credit of the pastors.
The Islamic Council of Victoria held its annual meeting yesterday. New secretary Neil Aykan had been in the post two hours when he spoke to The Age. He said he was not yet on top of the vilification case. "I just hope common sense prevails," he said. "We will act in the best interests of Muslims and the Muslim community." The case has sparked international interest. It was an important factor in the British Government dropping plans for similar legislation last week."
Click here for the original article.