Friday, 22 Sep 2023

Legal Aid lawyers kept in the dark over damning report on terror risk assessment tool

Legal Aid lawyers kept in the dark over damning report on terror risk assessment tool


Legal Aid lawyers kept in the dark over damning report on terror risk assessment tool

Legal Aid lawyers were left oblivious to a damning government-held report which cast doubt on a tool used to lock up or control 25 of their clients on the basis they might commit a terrorist offence in the future.

Guardian Australia has revealed serious problems with the way the federal and New South Wales governments have wielded extraordinary powers to detain or control individuals for crimes they have not yet committed.

The powers are reliant on a tool used to assess an individual's likelihood of future terror offending, known as VERA-2R, which is used by lawyers for the commonwealth and NSW to convince courts to use continuing detention orders (CDOs) or extended supervision orders (ESOs) to prevent a future crime from occurring.

In May 2020, the then Morrison government received a report on the tool which it had commissioned from the academic Dr Emily Corner at significant taxpayer expense. The report was damning about the use of the tool, saying the "lack of evidence" underpinning it had "serious implications for [its] validity and reliability".

The commonwealth sat on the report and continued to use the risk assessment tool as the basis for continuing to detain or monitor offenders after their sentence had finished.

The report was not disclosed to defendants, despite its damning findings. It was also not disclosed to the NSW government, who continued to rely on the tool.

The report only came to light more than two-and-a-half years later during a November 2022 inquiry by the national security law watchdog, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor [INSLM].

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