In an Australian first, in 2010 Maurice Blackburn began legal action to challenge a patent over human genetic material. The case was on behalf of a Brisbane woman with cancer and was run by Maurice Blackburn's Social Justice Practice, led by Rebecca Gilsenan and barristers David Catterns QC and Professor Peter Cashman. On 7 October, 2015 the Australian High Court ruled that the gene BRCA1 cannot be patented, ending a five year legal battle.
Maurice Blackburn acted in a class action in the Federal Court of Australia seeking compensation for people with disabilities who were allegedly assaulted, falsely imprisoned or suffered financial losses while they were residents of Grand Western Lodge.
The class action was brought by Paul McAlister, by his litigation representative the NSW Trustee and Guardian, on behalf of more than 40 adults with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities who were residents of Grand Western Lodge, a "licenced premises for handicapped people" in Millthorpe, NSW, between 2000 and 2011.
The class action was against Adrian Powell, the manager of Grand Western Lodge, his company, Avibin Pty Ltd, which was the operator of the licence granted by the State, and the State of NSW for its failure to monitor and enforce its own licence conditions.
It was alleged in the claim that Mr Powell physically assaulted residents as well as encouraging a residents' committee to assault residents. It was also alleged that Mr Powell confined residents as punishment and administered non-prescribed quantities of psychotropic medication to sedate some residents. The claim details allegations that Mr Powell frequently assaulted and falsely imprisoned Mr McAlister.
The Grand Western Lodge class action settled on the basis of payment by the Respondents to the Applicant, Mr McAlister, and the 50 class members of a total of $4.05 million.
Maurice Blackburn, through our Social Justice Practice, has joined with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre to launch a class action in the New South Wales Supreme Court seeking compensation for children and young people who were unlawfully arrested by police for breach of outdated bail conditions.
Countless children and young people in New South Wales have been wrongfully arrested because of a long-standing problem with the New South Wales Police Force's computer system containing incorrect or out-of-date bail information. Police officers often rely on information from the Computerised Operational Policing System, known as 'COPS', to arrest people for suspected breaches of bail. However, where bail information on COPS is inaccurate, it can lead to the wrongful arrest of a person for breach of bail. This case is ongoing.
Aid/Watch is an organisation which monitors Australian aid spending and debt and trade policy. Aid/Watch conducts and publishes research into the impacts of international development policies and practices. Maurice Blackburn is acting for Aid/Watch following a decision by the Australian Taxation Office to withdraw its charitable status.
In 2006 when Aid/Watch exposed the misuse of Federal Tsunami Aid, the former Foreign Minister himself telephoned Aid/Watch offices and threatened to cease funding the organisation, only to be informed by staff that under its constitution the organisation could not accept government funding. Later that year the Australian Tax Office (ATO) withdrew Aid/Watch's charitable status for taking a 'particular point of view' on the aid program.
With the support of Maurice Blackburn Aid/Watch was successful in its appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but lost at the Federal Court following an appeal by the ATO. Most recently, the firm successfully applied for special leave to appeal to the High Court. In December 2010, the High Court handed down a decision in favour of Aid/Watch and found that the generation of public debate was a social benefit for the purposes of charity law.