Lex Wotton challenging legal ban in High Court

Released last year from jail, Lex Wotton has been given a four-year media ban as part of his parole conditions, which prevents him from attending forums on Palm Island without the permission of Queensland authorities. Together with a great legal team including Allens, Levitt Robinson, Ron Merkel QC and Kris Walker, a landmark High Court case on representative democracy, political participation and the right to free speech is running a case to fight Lex's gag order. The case is set down for August.
Related: Landmark High Court challenge on representative democracy -- Story on challenge from The Age -- Lex Wotton Facebook Page

Lex Wotton cannot talk to the media while on parole. A Palm Island indigenous activist convicted of rioting following the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee will mount a High Court challenge to a gag that prevents him from talking to the media.

As part of parole conditions, Lex Wotton is prohibited from ''speaking to and having any interaction whatsoever with the media'', nor can he attend public meetings on Palm Island without permission of Queensland Corrective Services.

When Mr Wotton sought permission from his parole officer to attend a juvenile justice forum in October last year to speak on youth alcohol and drug use in his community, he was denied permission, according to court documents obtained by the Age

His challenge could have profound consequences as it will test the nature and scope of the right to freedom of political communication, participation and association under the constitution.

Phil Lynch, from the Human Rights Law Centre, which is backing the challenge to be heard in August, said the case strikes at the heart of what is meant by ''representative democracy''.

In two previous cases - one involving prisoner voting rights and the other, early closure of the Commonwealth electoral roll - the High Court has been developing the concept of representative democracy, although it is not explicitly stated in the constitution.

Mr Lynch said Mr Wotton's case raised ''fundamental civil and political rights''. ''It should be the case that prisoners and former prisoners are not denied any rights other than the right to liberty. To deny them other rights, such as freedom of speech, is to undermine their rehabilitation and re-integration.''

After a jury trial in 2008, four years after the Palm Island riot, Mr Wotton was found to have breached the Queensland Criminal Code and was sentenced to six years' jail. A district court judge determined that he was a leader of the riot, which caused millions of dollars in damage to Palm Island infrastructure.

In author Chloe Hooper's book The Tall Man, she described Mr Wotton's actions at the riot as drawing national attention to Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee's death in custody, which had occurred a week earlier.

Following his release in July last year, Mr Wotton has worked at the Palm Island drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

His legal team, including Melbourne counsel Ron Merkel, QC, will seek to strike out a section of the Queensland Corrective Services Act 2006 and invalidate parts of his parole, including the media gag.

Mr Lynch said that under Queensland law, if the The Age spoke to Mr Wotton, the journalist could face charges and jail."