In the afterglow of Queensland’s magnificent State of Origin victory on Wednesday night, a curious grumbling has arisen amongst some Queensland supporters over, of all things, the Man of the Match award.
Many fans feel Daly Cherry-Evans was not the best choice, and that several other players were more deserving.
Note I said fans; there has been no complaint from any players. You also haven’t heard Wayne Bennett express surprise, nor Phil Gould or Wally Lewis – indeed, Lewis would probably be chuffed, since Cherry-Evans did exactly what Lewis suggested he should do.
The difference is, of course, that the people who understand the game know why Cherry-Evans got the gong. Cherry-Evans controlled the second half brilliantly; his (and Munster’s) kicks were millimetre perfect, ensuring that every time NSW danger men Addo-Carr and Tedesco got the ball, they faced a wall of defence and were tackled immediately.
That happened because Cherry-Evans let his defenders know where the ball was going and put it there. In attack, he directed his team around the field in a way that applied constant pressure to the Blues, and Munster’s try was a direct result of that pressure. If you actually understand how the game is played, you know exactly why Daly Cherry-Evans was the pick – which isn’t to say a couple of others would not also have been worthy; when a team wins like that, there always are a heap of great performers.
The point is that there is a lesson for lawyers here, because media and the general public do not understand the law. How many times have you been at a social gathering, or speaking with family or friends, and been subject to an indignant complaint about a lenient sentence or apparently unjustifiable decision? Fuelled by click-bait media, lay people are losing confidence in our justice system, and the law in general; this should be of concern to us all.
Thankfully, there is a solution: education. Just as the decision to give Cherry-Evans the Man of the Match can be explained by people who understand rugby league, court decisions, sentencing practise and legislative operation can be explained by those who understand the law, that is, us.
Solicitors have a duty the courts and the administration of justice, and to refrain from diminishing public confidence in the administration of justice. That also implies a duty to encourage confidence in the system, and explaining the operation of the law when challenged on it is a part of that.
Sure, it can be uncomfortable or downright irritating when someone at a party wants you to explain why some defendant only got X years, or even was found not guilty. In reality though, this is an option to show leadership on this issue, a so-called ‘teachable moment’. Our justice system only works if the public have confidence in it – indeed, our society only works if there is confidence in the rule of law. Our profession needs to be fully invested in maintaining that confidence if we are to discharge our fundamental duties as officers of the court.
Who deserves Man of the Match in a football game is hardly an earth-shaking issue, and even the arguments amongst armchair experts will end as soon as the next game kicks off. Confidence in the justice system, however, is important 24/7 and forever. If we want the public to understand the system well enough to have faith in it, we have to explain it; no-one else will.
If we don’t stand up for the rule of law, if we can’t explain these things, who will? Why would the public buy into it? Our position as officers of the court carries the obligation to explain the law when we get the chance – it is both a duty and a privilege. Take the time to explain these things to the public, they are generally very clever and will understand if you give them the chance; it is our job, and it is very much in our best interests.
Oh, and one more thing: Queenslander!