Police v Darren Scott Dumughn (2002) H&FLR 2015-23
Wollongong Local Court (New South Wales)
12 November 2002
Coram: Unnamed Magistrate
Appearing for the Prosecution: Not known.
Appearing for the Defendant: Not known (possibly unrepresented).
Catchwords: New South Wales – criminal law – theft of tobacco products – convicted in absentia
Facts: The defendant was a 29-year-old supermarket night filler and packer. It was alleged that in 2000 and 2001 he stole cigarettes valued at $4,986.00 from his employer.
He did not attend the hearing “because he had been afraid of being found guilty of something he did not do”.
Held: Despite the defendant’s failure to appear, the court considered that it was able to deal with the matter and convicted him in absentia.
No written judgment is available. This casenote has been prepared based on the report in the Illawarra Mercury of 13 November 2002.
Note: The defendant was subsequently arrested, granted bail and required to reattend court on 3 December 2002. The subsequent disposition of the mater is not known.
Comment: This case is interesting for the fact that the defendant was convicted in his absence. Noting the common concern with the health effects of tobacco (1) and their economic impact (2), it is interesting to speculate whether theft of cigarettes (as opposed to, say, apples) made the court less sympathetic than it might otherwise have been. It is also striking that radically contrasting philosophies would potentially agree that the defendant was in some ways harshly treated: a libertarian perspective would be alert to theft of these particular consumer goods being treated particularly harshly (3), while a socialist analysis may be inclined to afford some indulgence to a person addicted to a commodity inflicted on the public (4).
(2) Adam Beam, ‘Kentucky Lawmakers Tackle Details of $100M Tobacco Settlement’, Insurance Journal, 13 March 2015
(3) For example, “Smoking is a legal activity that doesn’t cause violence, yet the government sees it as worse than murder”: Australian Smokers’ Rights Party, ‘Tell them they’re dreaming’, 19 July 2012.
(4) Cf Louise O’Shea, ‘An unhealthy dose of corporate meddling’, Red Flag, 3 March 2014.