In an Australian first and in a step reminiscent of Stalinist Russia, Victoria's Attorney General Rob Hulls has instructed his government to initiate proceedings against Australia's leading corruption author Raymond Hoser with a view to having him imprisoned.
Hulls has just issued writs against Hoser and his publishing company Kotabi over their 2 year-old books Victoria Police Corruption 1 and 2, (which between them total 1,536 pages).
These books were best-sellers before Hulls ordered them off the bookshelves last year in all Australian states (a year after publication).
Now two years after publication and with total sales over 10,000 copies, Hulls has again instructed his lawyers to sue Hoser and his publisher for "contempt".
The charge of "contempt" alleges that Hoser and publisher have "scandalized" the Victorian courts.
The same allegation was pursued unsuccessfully against Hoser in a related defamation action in April 2001, when Justice Bill Gillard ruled the application as improper and awarded costs in Hoser's favor.
Several months later, Hoser signed off on an agreement not to pursue these costs on the basis that all actions against him would be dropped.
Now, six months later, Hulls has broken the agreement and initiated fresh legal action against Hoser and his publisher.
If the case is successful, Hoser will once again be jailed for doing nothing more than telling the truth.
The same thing happened to Hoser in 1997 when he was improperly convicted of perjury.
In relation to that matter, the main prosecution witness John Connell later admitted that he'd deliberately lied to have Hoser jailed.
Hoser has yet to receive compensation for the four months he spent behind bars.
The new Hulls writ cites various statements in Hoser's books about Magistrates and judges as potentially scandalizing the courts.
Hoser notes that the statements referred to have long been on the public record, and in the main are derived from the government's own official transcripts.
Furthermore, late last year the Hulls side conceded that the relevant sections of the books (as cited in this latest writ) were totally true and correct.
Hoser's lawyer Alex Tees also notes that an important part of the British legal system is that the courts should be open to public scrutiny and comment.
This same view was upheld in an unsuccessful contempt action against Trevor Torney (known as Torney ex parte) in the High Court last year and other similar cases.
However in a compete repudiation of the Westminster tradition, Hulls is now seeking to gag all public debate in relation to the courts.
This latest attempt at censorship comes in the immediate wake of the resignation of Hulls' personal friend and colleague, County Court Judge Robert Kent, who was recently convicted of tax charges.
Hoser notes that the delays on Hulls' part in terminating Kent's employment by the court, "scandalized" the court far more than all that appears in Hoser's books. (Kent ended up resigning on 24 May following a series of newspaper editorials calling on him to do so).
Perhaps Hulls himself should be charged with scandalizing the court.
The first round in the battle is at the Melbourne Supreme Court this Wednesday (30 May 2001), when Hulls' taxpayer funded legal team will be applying to the court to have Hoser fined and jailed and to effectively close-down Kotabi Publishing, who up until now have been regarded as one of Australia's leading independent publishers.
Hoser and his publisher note that this latest case is yet another attempt to unlawfully ban a pair of important corruption books - all the more significant as large chunks of information from within the books have since been re-reported in the mainstream papers as well as other books including Underbelly 4 by Silvester and Rule and No Justice by Bowles.
The irony is that here in Victoria, Bank Robbers and drug pushers are allowed to roam free, while the government is plying it's vast resources into having a man jailed for doing nothing more than documenting the truth.