Tuesday, September 11, 2012

letter to Hon Simon Crean 11th Sept

The Hon Simon Crean
Department of the Environment,
Water, Heritage and the Arts
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601                                                                                                  11th Sept 2012

Dear Minister

Following on from my letter of 31st August.

I find it hard to believe that my dispute with Screen Australia, three years in the making, is going to wind up in the Supreme Court of NSW! And all because there is no-one – not yourself, not the Screen Australia Board – who believes that it is necessary for Ruth Harley to provide any evidence at all of the crimes for which I have been accused and found guilty – namely that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff.

Fundamental to the legal system we operate under in Australia (‘Due Process of Law’), one that has been in place since before the founding of Australia, is the proposition that the accused is presumed innocent until proven to be guilty. In order that the guilt or innocence of the accused be established fairly, evidence is presented in court in support of the charges that have been laid. It is not up to the accused to prove his innocence. It is up to the Prosecution to prove his guilt. Not since the days of 17th C Star Cambers (in our own culture at least) has it been possible to convict a person of a crime without presenting evidence in support of their having committed it. That it is possible in 2012 in Australia is a sad comment on Ruth Harley, on the Screen Australia Board and legal department and on your own ministry.

Am I being overly dramatic in referring to my alleged offenses as a ‘crime’? Perhaps, but ‘intimidation’, the threat of violence, is a serious allegation. ‘Intimidation’ is a charge made against those who have AVO orders taken out against them. Intimidating behaviour is what we expect of Mafia-type, of Triad gangs and other criminals who seek to impose their will on others in contravention of both the laws of the land and the rules that govern civilized behaviour. In the collaborative process that is filmmaking I would not want to work with anyone who was guilty of intimidating behaviour and nor would I expect any of my fellow filmmakers to wish to work with me if I am the kind of person who intimidates and places at risk staff at Screen Australia. Or anyone else. (I am not sure, in a legal sense, precisely what ‘risk’ means but it certainly does not reflect well on my character that I should be placing public servants at risk.) Intimidation is, in any context, a serious charge and one that the accused has a right to defend himself against. This right has been denied to me.

Consider now, the punishment. Being banned by Screen Australia makes it virtually impossible for me to continue to work as a filmmaker in Australia. It is a very unusual film (as you would know too well) that does not require of a film producer that he or she consult with Screen Australia in relation to the ‘Producer’s Offset’. Consultation is a right that has been denied me on what I have repeatedly claimed to be trumped up charges. Ruth Harley has had ample opportunity to demonstrate that her charges are based in fact. All the has to do, even at this late date (today) is to produce the relevant correspondence or even just extracts from it to prove that far from being trumped up charges it is me who has been playing fast and loose with the truth in claiming that they are. Ruth could prove me guilty as charged by just quoting a couple of paragraphs from my correspondence. She will not do so because she cannot do so. And you, as Minister, know that she cannot do so because someone in your office must surely, by now, have asked Ruth to produce the correspondence. But you, Minister, are prepared to turn a blind eye to the virtual termination of a filmmaker’s career knowing full well that he is not guilty as charged. Extraordinary!

All the indications are that Screen Australia will now use the Supreme Court of NSW to defend Ruth Harley’s right to keep secret the evidence in support of the charges she has laid and which have led to my being banned. I am not sure precisely how Screen Australia intends to do this but if it involves seeking from the Supreme Court that the allegedly intimidating correspondence be suppressed, and if the Supreme Court accedes to this request, I will not abide by the Supreme Court ruling but will publish the correspondence online if I have it in my possession. That I should even have to consider such a course of action is absurd but when you, as Minister, effectively allow the Chief Executive to destroy a filmmakers career without presenting any evidence in support of the charges she has laid, don’t be surprised if a filmmaker who does not wish to have his career terminated, should resort to whatever tactic he or she feels is necessary to see that justice is done. If I have intimidated anyone, ban me by all means. If I have not intimidated anyone, if I have not placed Screen Australia staff at risk, sack Ruth Harley for having abused her power in the way I claim she has and for having abrogated the fundamental principle (dating back to 3rd C Rome) that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty.

Please believe me when I say that I am quite prepared to go to jail to defend my right to be provided with evidence of the crimes Ruth Harley has accused and found me guilty of and for my fellow filmmakers to be able to judge for themselves if I am a villain as charged.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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