Rule of law issues have featured significantly in a number of High Court judgments over the past weeks.

In Monis v The Queen [2013] HCA 4, handed down on 27 February 2013,  a range of views were expressed by members of the High Court about the ambit of freedom of speech and freedom of political communication in the context of “offensive”communications being sent by post.

The issue also arose in Attorney-General for the State of South Australia v Corporation of the City of Adelaide [2013] HCA 3, handed down on that day, which considered the lawfulness of a Council by-law that states that a person cannot “preach, canvass, harangue, tout for business or conduct any survey or opinion poll” without a permit on any road under the control of the Council.

Both cases considered the limits to freedom of speech and political communication in our democracy, balancing the object of the legislation concerned with its impact on freedom of speech.

Yates v The Queen [2013] HCA 8 handed down on 14 March 2013 concerned the quashing of an order that had effectively allowed an intellectually disabled man to be indefinitely detained.

On the same day, the High Court upheld the validity of Queensland legislation allowing for a closed criminal intelligence hearing with no notice being given to the respondents, contrary to the usual procedural fairness safeguards of the criminal justice system. The legislation according to the Court in Assistant Commissioner Michael James Condon v Pompano Pty Ltd [2013] HCA 7 , was saved from incompatibility with the Constitution because it did not interfere with the Supreme Court’s continuing inherent jurisdiction to stay any proceedings “in which practical unfairness becomes manifest”.