National

Bassam Hamzy challenges jail conditions

By AAP Newswire

A notorious high-risk NSW prisoner, who founded the Brothers 4 Life Sydney gang, is challenging the ban on him communicating in Arabic to his family.

Bassam Hamzy is also challenging other conduct by NSW jail authorities including a requirement his legal representatives undergo a criminal record check before they are approved to visit.

Hamzy in 2001 was convicted of murder, malicious wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, maliciously discharging loaded arms with intent to do grievous bodily harm, threatening to use a firearm with intent to prevent or hinder lawful apprehension and conspiracy to murder.

His non-parole period for those offences will expire in December 2023, but he has also committed serious breaches while in custody.

He is housed in Area 2 of the High Risk Management Correctional Centre at Goulburn.

Justice Geoffrey Bellew on Monday began hearing his NSW Supreme Court civil lawsuits against the commissioner of Corrective Services who is resisting the claims.

Hamzy's barrister, Michael Finnane QC, said the Arabic language claim related to the Racial Discrimination Act.

"He cannot communicate in the language of his birth with members of his family, nor can they with him," he said.

"The right to speak in a person's language is one exercised by all Australian citizens who wish to do so."

In court documents, Mr Finnane said the ban on the exercise of this right was "unjustified" and contrary to provisions of the Act.

But James Emmett, the commissioner's lawyer, denied the ban breached the Act, noting Hamzy was fluent in English.

While his parents may not be as fluent at their son, they speak and understand English.

Mr Emmett said Hamzy was not prevented from himself praying in Arabic, reading the Quran in Arabic, keeping a diary in Arabic or repeating religious or customary incantations in Arabic, whether audibly or not.

Mr Finnane also challenged jail practices relating to Hamzy's access to video link facilities, his right to access legal representation and the need for his lawyers to undergo yearly criminal record checks.

Three lawyers representing Hamzy have refused to authorise a check although Mr Finnane and solicitor Zali Burrows have allowed them.

This was notwithstanding the fact that "I am a former judge of the District Court of NSW and have visited the facility twice during the term of my office as a judge", Mr Finnane said in his written submissions.

He told the court: "To require a practising lawyer to undergo a criminal record check is, to say the least, burdensome."

It also was irrelevant as "you can't be a practising lawyer and have a criminal record".

But Mr Emmett said the commissioner "cannot assume any individual lawyer is above suspicion or beyond corruption".

He also noted cases involving serious drug offences or violence when lawyers were allowed to keep practising. The hearing continues.