Sick. Sicker.

Illness leading to injury.  No winners here.

Between September 2016 and March 2017 a disabled 37 year old man in Melbourne, Australia, made a number of phone calls to mothers.  He posed as an emergency responder.  He told each one that her daughter had been killed in a road accident.  Each one was deeply shocked by the phone call.  One was later diagnosed with depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Another was left with sleep problems.  The offender was charged with three instances of stalking and of recklessly causing injury, and also two instances of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.


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The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) §21A relevantly provides that –

(1) A person must not stalk another person. Penalty: Level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).

(2) A person (the offender) stalks another person (the victim) if the offender engages in a course of conduct which includes … contacting the victim or any other person by post, telephone, fax, text message, e-mail or other electronic communication or by any other means whatsoever; … with the intention of … arousing apprehension or fear in the victim for his or her own safety or that of any other person.

(3) For the purposes of this section an offender also has the intention to … arouse apprehension or fear in the victim for his or her own safety or that of any other person if … the offender knows that engaging in a course of conduct of that kind would be likely to cause such harm or arouse such apprehension or fear …

The matter was dealt with before Judge McInerney in the Melbourne County Court.  It was put on his behalf that he had significant mental problems including autism, a socialization disorder and Tourette’s syndrome.  The Court said that the offences were bizarre, heinous and grievous, but that the offender’s illness required his punishment to be moderated.

The offender was sentenced to serve three months imprisonment in addition to the roughly 15 months he had spent on remand.  He was ordered to complete a community corrections order including mental treatment on release.

Director of Public Prosecutions v Zillner (2018) The Age, 7 June 2018, p.11

Doing a line of … baby formula?

I don’t know how much heroin costs per ounce. I hope it’s more than baby formula. If it’s less, it’ll completely eff my sense of reality.

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In December 2017 and April 2018 a man from Corio, Australia, stole 67 tins of baby formula from supermarkets in Portarlington, Drysdale and Eltham. The retail value of this much formula was A$2,345.00 (the value on the China-driven black market may be as much as A$13,500!)

The offender was charged with four counts of theft and one of obtaining property by deception, as well as certain bail offences. The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.), §81(1) provides that –

A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains property belonging to another, with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).


The offender was dealt with in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court. His lawyer submitted that he had committed the thefts to fund a heroin addiction. He had been gainfully employed from his release from prison for another offence in 2012 until he suffered a back injury in 2016.

Mellas M sentenced the offender to two months imprisonment.

Police v Wright (2018) Geelong Advertiser, 25 May 2018, p.7

The flames of revenge

The Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 have left a long shadow across Victoria, Australia.

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A 53 year old woman lit 14 fires around the Tatura and Mooroopna areas between February 2014 and January 2015.  Mercifully each was reasonably small but required attendances from the all-volunteer Tatura and Mooroopna fire brigades.  The defendant was charged with intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire.  The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) §201A(1)  provides that

A person who—
(a) intentionally or recklessly causes a fire; and
(b) is reckless as to the spread of the fire to vegetation on property belonging to another—
is guilty of an offence and liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum).

The defendant was dealt with in the County Court of Victoria.  Judge Carmody noted that some of the offences were promoted by a quarrel with a farm managers son.  His Honour considered that her mental impairment (mild intellectual disability and an IQ of 67) reduced her moral culpability.  However, he alos noted that dealing with the fires had placed additional pressures on volunteer emergency responders.  He sentenced the defendant to 88 days imprisonment, a four year community corrections order and 300 hours of volunteer work.

Director of Public Prosecutions v Thumpston (2018), Tatura Guardian, 17 April 2018, p.7

A dog’s death

Kindness and neglect can be surprisingly close companions. In a recent post we saw that this is true of how we treat humans. It’s also true of animals.

In late 2015 a resident of Canberra, Australia, found a stray dog entangled in his hedge. It was eventually found to be terminally sick, afflicted with lymphoma, underweight and flyblown . He brought the dog into his secure back yard but (as he later told the court) lacked sufficient funds to take it to a vet for care. In November 2015 a member of the public reported the dog’s predicament to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ACT) (RSPCA).

Image credit: RSPCA (ACT)


The RSPCA seized the dog and ultimately put it down (the Society’s press release is unsparing about how badly degraded was the dog’s condition). The man was charged with failing to seek veterinary treatment*.  The Australian Capital Territory’s Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT) §6B relevantly provides that

(1) A person in charge of an animal has a duty to care for the animal.
(2) A person in charge of an animal commits an offence if the person—
(a) fails to take reasonable steps to provide the animal with

(iv) treatment for illness, disease, and injury;  …
Maximum penalty: 100 penalty units, imprisonment for 1 year or
(3) In this section:
appropriate means suitable for the needs of the animal having
regard to the species, environment and circumstances of the animal.
reasonable steps means the steps a reasonable person would be
expected to take having regard to all the circumstances.
treatment includes veterinary treatment if a reasonable person
would expect veterinary treatment to be sought in the circumstances.

The defendant was dealt with in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates’ Court. He pleaded guilty to the charge but said that he had not been able to afford to get the dog treatment on a veteran’s pension.

Theakston M noted that by keeping the dog in his back yard, the defendant had prevented other people from helping it**. The offender “did the right thing, but in doing so failed to meet additional obligations” connected with taking charge of a dog.

His Honour imposed a 12 month good behaviour order. He did not order the defendant to cover the costs of caring for the dog, destroying it and holding a post-mortem, noting that the organisation would probably have incurred these costs regardless.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v Van Duren (2016) Canberra Times, 5 December 2016.


* A charge of failing to provide shelter was withdrawn.

** cf Zelenko v Gimbel Bros Inc, 158 Misc. 904; 287 NYS 134. One might wonder who His Honour thought was likely to help the dog.

Oh Deer…

In August 2017 the Game Management Authority and Victoria Police conducted a crackdown on illegal hunting in northeast Victoria, Australia. One group of men was found to be in possession of two firearms and two high-powered torches. The second group was found to be in possession of a single firearm and four high-powered torches.

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The Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 (Vic.) r.12 provide that –

(1) A person must not be in possession of a spotlight and a firearm in recognised deer habitat from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. Penalty: 20 penalty units.
(2) A person must not be in possession of a spotlight and be in company with a person in possession of a firearm in recognised deer habitat from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. Penalty: 20 penalty units.
(3) A person must not be in possession of a firearm and be in company with a person in possession of a spotlight in recognised deer habitat from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. Penalty: 20 penalty units.

Both groups were presented for trial in Myrtleford Magistrates Court. The court fined two men $1,000.00 without recording a conviction (both of these mens’ hunting equipment had been seized). The third man was placed on a diversion and ordered to pay $250.00 to charity and write a letter of apology (the matter will be struck out if he is of good behaviour for 12 months). The fourth man pleaded guilty and was fined $750.00. The fifth was placed ona good behaviour bond without conviction and ordered to donate $750.00 to charity

Game Management Authority v Flanders* (2018) Country News, 15 May 2018, p.8.


* No name is given in the report and I have arbitrarily assigned a name drawn from television.

How not to solve housemate issues

We’ve all had that housemate: the one who’s never adjusted to the fact that their mother isn’t there to clean up after them. It’s still not a good idea to go Jackie Chan on them.

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On 2 August 2017 a 32 year old man from Portland, Australia, locked a housemate out of their dwelling.  When the housemate arrived home at 3:30am, the offender began to berate them over uncompleted chores, finally pushing them onto a bed and slapping them.  He was charged with recklessly causing injury (Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.), §18):

A person who, without lawful excuse, … recklessly causes injury to another person is guilty of an indictable offence. Penalty: … If the injury was caused recklessly—level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum).

The offender pleaded guilty in Portland Magistrates Court.  Toose M fined him $1,000.00.

Police v King (2018) Portland Observer & Guardian, 2 May 2018, p.5.

Taxidermy: not always a good idea

In June 2017 staff from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning raided the home of a man in Kilmore, Australia.  They located a stuffed koala mounted as a wall decoration.  The man admitted to shooting the koala with a .22 rifle, stuffing and mounting it.  His only explanation was that it was “something to do”.

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It appears he was charged with breaching the Wildlife Act 1975 (Vic.), §§ 43 and 47D.  Section 43(1) provides that –

A person must not hunt, take or destroy other protected wildlife.  Penalty: 50 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment or both the fine and imprisonment and an additional penalty of 5 penalty units for every head of wildlife in respect of which an offence has been committed.

Section 47D(1) states that –

A person must not have wildlife in his or her possession or control if that wildlife has been taken, destroyed, acquired, received, bought, sold, disposed of, kept, possessed, controlled, bred, processed or displayed in contravention of this Act or any corresponding law of another State or a Territory of the Commonwealth.  Penalty: 240 penalty units or 24 months imprisonment or both.

The offender was dealt with in Seymour Magistrates Court in April 2018.  He was found guilty of the offences charged.  He was placed on a good behaviour bond and ordered to pay $1,000.00 to the Court Fund.

Dep’t of Environment, Land, Water and Planning v Simpson* (2018) Seymour Telegraph, 16 May 2018, p.12


* The offender is not identified in the report; I have taken the liberty of drawing a name from The Simpsons.

And punish the sick

There’s been quite the brouhaha here over the last few days over the non-custodial sentences given to two women who attacked and injured a paramedic.  The case, if you’re interested, was Director of Public Prosecutions v Warren & Underwood [2018] VCC 689.  The public response has been predictably savage, and remarkably unforgiving when one considers that both women were (and are) apparently remarkably damaged after lifetimes of physical and sexual abuse.  Attempts by me to defend the decision were not well received –

It’s a bit of a surprise to be called a “bleeding heart socialist” after a lifetime as an old-school right winger!

More troubling are the proposed reforms reported in yesterday’s Age, and in particular this one –

Ambulance Employees state secretary Steve McGhie said he was given an undertaking from the Premier that he would change laws to jail people who injure emergency services workers, even if they are suffering from mental illnesses including schizophrenic episodes.

I have a stake in this: I am an “emergency services worker” when I’m not being a lawyer (State Emergency Service, Coast Guard and Red Cross).  But I can’t stomach the idea that protecting me warrants effectively re-criminalizing mental illness.  It is too close to punishing for the sake of punishing.

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I have to agree with Pope Francis: punishments which are imposed in the hope of frightening people into compliance – public punishments – are a hammer that makes every problem look like a nail:

a widespread conviction has taken root in recent decades that public punishment can resolve the most disparate social problems, as if completely different diseases could be treated with the same medicine. This is not so much about trust in some social function traditionally attributed to public punishment, as about the belief that it is possible that such punishment can obtain those benefits that would demand the application of a different type of social and economic policy as well as social inclusion.

A politician grubbing for votes by coming down hard on criminals is merely acting in a tawdry and predictable manner.  One who does so by coming down hard on the ill is repulsive.

Sometimes everyone loses

Sometimes nobody wins.

Image credit: Shepparton News

Mr Dajko was drinking on the night of 24 July 2016.  When he got in his car early the next morning he was tired and still had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08.  A kangaroo hooped onto the road in front of him near Tatura, Australia.  He swerved to avoid it, lost control of his car and collided with a light truck, fatally injuring the driver.

The defendant was charged with exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol and with careless driving.  His ‘carelessness’ took the form of intoxication, fatigue and sudden swerving.  The Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic.) §65(1) provides that

A person who drives a motor vehicle on a highway carelessly is guilty of an offence and liable for a first offence to a penalty of not more than 12 penalty units and for a subsequent offence to a penalty of not more than 25 penalty units.

The defendant pleased guilty in Shepparton Magistrates Court.  Stuthridge M accepted that “this was an accident in the sense the kangaroo was involved and [the defendant] lost control of his vehicle”.  She also accepted that he was deeply troubled by the accident. Her Honour fined the defendant $1,000.00 and suspended his drivers licence for 16 months.

Police v Dajko (2017) Shepparton News, 29 August 2017, p.1.

Give up already.

It helps to know when to walk away.

broken window
Image from here

On 13 February 2018 a man in western Victoria, Australia, asked a family member to buy paint for him.  When they declined, he became angry and smashed windows in the family home and car.  He was charged with breaching §197(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.):

A person who intentionally and without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another or to himself and another shall be guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).

On 14 February 2018 the Hamilton Magistrates Court issued an intervention order directing him not to recontact a particular family member or to enter the family home.  Despite this, later in February he entered the home and became aggressive towards the family member.  The charge of breaching an intervention order was added to the prosecution.

The offender was presented for trial in Portland Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty.  He was fined $1,000.00 by Toose M.

Police v Bradley (2018) Portland Observer & Guardian, 2 May 2018, p.5