The trouble with being a crap gardener

In case you were wondering, committing a crime badly won’t save you from punishment.

In February 2019 a resident of Shepparton was found in possession of one mature cannabis plant, 17 small plants, a quantity of cannabis and cannabis growing material.  He was charged with drug offences.

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Very good movie; very bad life advice

The matter was dealt with before Stuthridge M at Shepparton Magistrates Court.  Ms Molly Wooderson appeared for the prosecution.  The defendant was represented by Ms Kate Martin of Victoria Legal Aid.  She submitted that the defendant had been seeking treatment since his arrest, was not a good gardener and had failed to care for the plants.

Her Honour sentenced the defendant to a one-year good behaviour bond without conviction.

Police v Povey (2019) Shepparton News, 2 July 2019, p.5

Invective from the Past

Australian readers will be well aware of the legal brouhaha surrounding the social media use of rugby player Israel Folau.  The most neutral way of putting the matter is to say that Mr Folau made comments about gay people which were considered gravely offensive and resulted in his contract as a professional athlete being terminated.  The post in question was as follows –


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Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on

As it happened, about the time this particular storm was brewing, I happened to notice a case in my home jurisdiction’s law reports that was worth considering on the matter of what speech is impermissible

The Case

Robert Brickell was a pretty angry man.  He was described as a “mission worker” and on 7 April 1940 he was a man on a mission.  He had fitted a microphone and loudspeakers to his car and gave a speech in Barkly Street, Ararat, which drew quite a crowd.  He referred to the mayor’s decision to refuse permission to use the town hall for a religious meeting, and then to the mayor’s own religion. Warming to his theme he said –

The organisation responsible is that whose blighting influence has spread over most of the countries of Europe and whose slimy hands, dripping with blood unrighteously shed, is subtly but effectively grabbing control of this country, namely, the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Authority which operates from the Vatican city, Rome, and carries on the biggest racket ever perpetrated upon mankind, blasphemously attaching the name of God and Christ to their racket.

The crowd became agitated and some people said “stop him or we will”.  Police constable Eric Annett intervened to prevent a riot.  Brickell was charged with breaching §24 of the Police Offences Act 1928, which provided –

Every person who … uses any … insulting words … in … any public place … whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned shall be liable to a penalty of not more than Ten pounds; and in default of immediate payment shall be committed to prison for a term of not more than three months unless such penalty is sooner paid.

The matter was dealt with in the Court of Petty Sessions.  Brickell was convicted and fined £2 (about $170.00 in today’s value).  He applied to have the conviction reviewed: Brickell v Annett (1940) The Argus, 9 May 1940 at 7.

Town Hall
Ararat Town Hall (Image from here)

Barrister DM Little, instructed by the firm of Nevett, Nevett & Glenn (now Nevett Ford Lawyers) sought to overturn the conviction on the basis that the words used, while offensive, were not insulting, unless there was insult to the personal feelings of the hearers.  Insulting, he said, was confined to attacks on a person’s moral character only and not (say) physical appearance.

O’Bryan J took a different view.  He considered that the word “insulting” had a wide meaning and covered scornful abuse of a person or the giving of a personal indignity or affront.

A Catholic would, I have no doubt, hearing the words in question, regard them as an abusive attack upon his personal religious beliefs and practices and would thereby suffer a personal affront. To say to a man that his religion is a sham, that it is a mere dishonest business and trickery, is to offer him a personal indignity as direct as possible.

It followed that the conviction stood.  The section in question, incidentally, lives on in §17 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.

It seems to me there are lessons for both sides in the ruling  in Annett.  On one hand, critics of what one might call public Christianity should not claim a right to say whatever invective comes into their minds –

On the other, free speech fans should remember that there has never been an open season to pick fights.

Annett v Brickell [1940] VLR 312

Worse than an alarm clock

Nobody likes hearing the alarm go off in the morning.  Except for one man, who would have preferred his alarm to the sound of police executing a search warrant at 4:20am.

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The search warrant turned up a stolen motorcyle along with 28 grams of cannabis and 10 ecstasy tablets.  The subject of the search faced drug and property charges.

The matter was dealt with at Shepparton Magistrates Court before Stuthridge M.   The defendant pleaded guilty.  Ms Molly Wooderson appeared for the prosecution.  Mr Anthony Coote of Camerons Lawyers appeared for the defendant.  He submitted that the defendant, despite a criminal record, had beenoutr of trouble and was trying to re-enter the workforce.

The defendant was fined $1,500.00 without conviction.

Police v Dean (2019) Shepparton News, 2 July 2019 at 7

The neighs have it

An animal cruelty case recently came before Shepparton Magistrates Court.

In June 2018 horse trainer Pauline Brodie’s property was inspected by officers of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).  Ten of the horses in her care were found to be in poor condition.  Three others required veterinary assistance.  The horses were subsequently relocated by Harness Racing Victoria.

Brodie was charged with two breaches of §9 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.  The Act relevantly provides that

A person who …

(f) is … the person in charge of an animal which is confined or otherwise unable to provide for itself and fails to provide the animal with proper and sufficient food, drink or shelter; or …

(i) is … the person in charge of a sick or injured animal and unreasonably fails to provide veterinary or other appropriate attention or treatment for the animal; …

commits an act of cruelty upon that animal and is guilty of an offence and is liable to a penalty of not more than, in the case of a natural person, 250 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months or, in the case of a body corporate, 600 penalty units.

The matter was dealt with before Stuthridge M.  Ms Wendy Gutteridge appeared for the prosecution.  The defendant was represented by Mr Markorius Habib of counsel.  It was submitted that the defendant had been going through a difficult relationship breakdown, had struggled financially to care for the horses and had experienced significant humilation as a result of the incident.

The defendant was sentenced to a one year good behaviour bond without conviction and ordered to pay $500.00 to the Court fund.

RSPCA v Brodie (2019), Shepparton News, 2 July 2019 at 5

Everyone in the Gallery is a Lawyer

Arguments in the matter of Pell v R were completed today in the Court of Appeal here in Melbourne.  As one might expect, they’ve been followed closely by journalists and the public at large.  The court has reserved its decision.  My profoundest sense at this moment, however, is annoyance at the criticisms being leveled against Counsel for the Crown, Mr Chris Boyce SC.

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I have difficulty commenting on Mr Boyce’s performance.  I’m remarkably ignorant when it comes to things I know nothing about.  I’m an occasionally-competent litigation solicitor.  I’ve appeared in any number of procedural applications but have never run a trial.  It’s unthinkable that I’ll ever appear in an appeal.  And for that reason I don’t seel I’m qualified to assess anyone else’s performance.

Not everyone agrees, of course.

I have a major difficulty in matters of public importance: I’m aware of being ignorant when it comes to things I know nothing about.  I’ve certainly had a few dreadful times on my feet in court.  I’ve had a few of my submissions described as “remarkable” or “interesting” by the Bench ( “remarkable” and “interesting” are not words of praise). And on one memorable occasion in the County Court I heard a rambling incoherent voice droning on and then realised it was mine.  I certainly know that it’s no easy job.

You feel like critiquing an expert?  Fair enough.  Go get your law degree, qualify, join the Bar, reach its highest levels and run a couple of hundred appeals and trials and then you might be qualified to be an armchair quarterback.  Until then, you’re just another 130kg asthmatic sitting in the grandstand at the MCG shouting useful advice to professional athletes.

Police v Dumughn (2002) H&FLR 2015-23

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.

Judgment

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).

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(1) Consider State v Native Wholesale Supply (2014) H&FLR 2014-32 and Proprietor v Adolfs (2014) H&FLR 2014-36.

(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.

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French Republic v A Firefighter (2014) H&FLR 2015-11

French Republic v A Firefighter (2014) H&FLR 2015-11

Amiens Criminal Court

11 December 2014

Coram: Not identified.

Appearing for the Prosecution: Not identified.
Appearing for the Defendant: Not identified.

Catchwords: France – criminal law – emergency services – road accident – manslaughter – emergency

Facts: The accused was a firefighter with 33 years experience and, in particular, 10 years experience driving under emergency conditions.  On 6 October 2011 at around 10:00pm he was driving a tanker in a built-up area to the scene of a gas leak.  It was agreed that the driver had been complying with all applicable safety regulations when he passed through a red light with flashing lights and sirens activated.  Despite this, the truck collided with a scooter which entered the intersection pursuant to a green light.  The scooter driver was killed in the collision.  The driver was charged with “homicide involontaire” (≈ manslaughter).

The accused’s evidence was that he had slowed the truck, that he had not needed to speed as he had not yet been given the precise address of the gas leak, and that the scooter had entered the intersection at high speed.

Held: Convicting the driver, that the Court was not convinced that the gas leak was so urgent as to require driving under emergency conditions and disregarding the red light.

Judgment

No written judgment is available.  This report has been prepared based on accounts in the newspapers Le Figaro of 22 December 2014, Courrier Picard of 6 November 2014 and 21 December 2014, Libération of 22 December 2014, an undated report in Pompier Magazine, and the account of television channel France3 of 22 December 2014.

Note: the accused has announced his intention to appeal.

Comment: This case has obvious relevance from a fitness perspective, noting that the scooter driver could equally have been a runner, cyclist or equestrian.  It should be noted that the court’s rationale – that it was able to second-guess the driver’s assessment of the situation, that it had done so and found it wanting – has been deduced second-hand from a comment made on the case by the union representing firefighters.  That said, it is the only variable which would explain the driver’s conviction in light of the other evidence.

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Prosecutor v Unidentified Father (2015) H&FLR 2015-9

Prosecutor v Unidentified Father (2015) H&FLR 2015-9

Turin Magistrates Court (Fifth Criminal Division)

26 January 2015

Coram: Minucci J.

Appearing for the Prosecution: Barbara Badellino (of the Italian Ministry of Justice)
Appearing for the Defendant: Not identified

Catchwords: Italy – criminal law – parent – psychological abuse – “tough love” – sport – competition – skiing – dieting

Facts: The accused was the father of two daughters and separated from their mother.  Between 2008 (at which time they were aged roughly 11 and 14 years) the girls saw him at weekends.  As they entered adolescence they gained a certain amount of weight and lost interest in skiing.  The accused compelled his daughters to follow a restricted and macrobiotic diet and forced them to train for and take part in competitive skiing.  In 2011 the accused’s daughters complained to their mother of ill-treatment by their father and the matter was referred to the Turin prosecutor’s office.  The accused was charged with mistreatment of his daughters.

The evidence (including statements from the girls’ school principal and skiing trainer) indicated that they were subjected to significant psychological pressure and repeatedly told that they were fat and had to do more sport.  It appears that identifiable psychological harm had been caused to the girls.  There was no evidence of physical abuse.

The accused’s position was that he was acting only as a concerned father, and that any verbal abuse was only to encourage them.

Held: Convicting the accused of mistreating his daughters, that a sentence of nine months imprisonment was appropriate.

Judgment

No written judgment is available.  This report has been prepared based on accounts prepared by duerighe.com, Il Secolo XIXRAI News, La Voce and La Repubblica, all of 26 January 2015, with the aid of Google Translate

Note: the accused has announced his intention to appeal.

Comment: This case forms an interesting companion to State v Corrigan (1998) H&FLR 2014-63, in which the defendant was convicted of felony child abuse as a result of not addressing health issues caused by her daughter’s significant obesity.  Viewed as part of a bigger jurisprudential picture, it suggests that notwithstanding the serious health and economic effects of obesity (1), the ‘fat shaming’ identified by some bloggers will at some point stray from being socially inappropriate to being a legal wrong.

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(1) Jim Landers, ‘Cost of Care: The U.S. health care system is bleeding green’, Dallas Morning News, 1 February 2015.

R v Langford (2009) H&FLR 2015-2

The Queen v Jessica Maree Langford (2009) H&FLR 2015-2

Melbourne County Court (Victoria)

29 March 2009

Coram: Judge Howie

Appearing for the Prosecution: Anne Hassan (of the Office of Public Prosecutions)
Appearing for the Defendant: Dermott Dann (instructors not identified)

Catchwords: Victoria – criminal law – swimming – alcohol – culpable driving – death – sentence

Facts: The defendant was aged 19 years on 29 November 2008. She and her boyfriend had attended Shoreham Beach late that night where they swam naked and drank premixed bottles of vodka and soft drink as well as a bottle of neat vodka.  After swimming they dried themselves with their clothes and the defendant (still naked) began to drive them back to Frankston.  At Hastings the car was involved in an accident and the defendant’s boyfriend was killed.

The defendant’s blood alcohol reading two hours after the accident was 0.09%.  As a probationary driver she was not permitted to have a blood alcohol reading higher than 0.00% (1). The police concluded that at the time of the accident the defendant was driving at 104kph in a 90kph zone.

The defendant was charged with culpable driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death. Magistrate Wakeling committed her to stand trial in the County Court: DPP v Langford (2009), Sydney Morning Herald, 8 September 2009.

The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) provides as follows regarding these offences –

[in §318(1 & 2)] – Any person who by the culpable driving of a motor vehicle causes the death of another person shall be guilty of an indictable offence and shall be liable to level 3 imprisonment (20 years maximum) or a level 3 fine or both. 

… a person drives a motor vehicle culpably if he drives the motor vehicle—

(a) recklessly, that is to say, if he consciously and unjustifiably disregards a substantial risk that the death of another person or the infliction of grievous bodily harm upon another person may result from his driving; or

(b) negligently, that is to say, if he fails unjustifiably and to a gross degree to observe the standard of care which a reasonable man would have observed in all the circumstances of the case; or

(c) whilst under the influence of alcohol to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the motor vehicle; …

and

[in §319(1)] – A person who, by driving a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner that is dangerous to the public having regard to all the circumstances of the case, causes the death of another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).

The defendant pleaded guilty in the County Court to dangerous driving causing death. Her barrister noted that she suffered from marked pre-existing psychological problems, had a post-accident history including substance abuse, multiple suicide attempts and a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder, and had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication. He noted that she had no criminal history.

The Crown submitted that the defendant’s mental health was irrelevant, and that her good character and prospects for rehabilitation did not alter the need for general deterrence. It was submitted that the defendant should be detained in a Youth Training Centre.

Held: Sentencing the defendant to a community based order and prohibited her from driving for 18 months, that –

1. The attitude of the deceased’s family, who forgave the defendant and openly supported her at trial, was relevant to imposing a lenient sentence.

2. It was relevant that the defendant’s psychological state was fragile and that her recovery would not be assisted by a custodial sentence.

Judgment

No written judgment is available.  This report has been prepared based on accounts in the Herald Sun (Melbourne) of 29 March 2010, the Daily Telegraph (Sydney) of 23 March 2010 and the Sydney Morning Herald of 8 September 2009 and 15 February 2010.

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(1) The limit in Victoria for the holder of a full licence is 0.05%.

Police v Licciardello (2007) H&FLR 2015-1

Police v Chas Licciardello (2007) H&FLR 2015-1

Sutherland Local Court (New South Wales)

c. 23 January 2007

Coram: Keogh M.

Appearing for the Prosecution: Not known
Appearing for the Defendant: Stephen Russell (instructors not identified)

Catchwords: New South Wales – criminal law – rugby – supporters – satire – offensive behaviour at stadium – reasonable person

Facts: The defendant was a television satirist.  On 14 July 2006 he attended at the Jubilee Stadium prior to a rugby match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the St George-Illawarra Dragons. In order to parody Bulldogs supporters’ reputation for violence, he dressed in the team colours and offered to sell imitation knuckledusters and flares, a rubber knife, balaclavas and boxes labelled “Rohypnol” as “Official Bulldogs Merchandise”.  The incident was filmed with the intention of later screening it on television.  The spectators present generally took the incident in good spirit, but a number of fans became aggressive (1), prompting police to intervene and charge the defendant with offensive behaviour.

The Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), §4 provides that –

(1) A person must not conduct himself or herself in an offensive manner in or near, or within view or hearing from, a public place or a school.
Maximum penalty: 6 penalty units or imprisonment for 3 months.

(2) A person does not conduct himself or herself in an offensive manner as referred to in subsection (1) merely by using offensive language.

(3) It is a sufficient defence to a prosecution for an offence under this section if the defendant satisfies the court that the defendant had a reasonable excuse for conducting himself or herself in the manner alleged in the information for the offence.

The video of the incident was viewed by the Court.

Held: Dismissing the charge, that –

1. The crowd’s response was relevant in considering the charge.  Her Worship observed that “I can’t ignore the fact that overwhelmingly the crowd responded to the accused’s conduct as if it were a joke, which it was – although it may not have been a joke to everyone’s liking”.

2. That one group of people did not appreciate the humour involved and were insulted did not necessarily prove that the conduct was offensive.  Most people at the incident were good natured and shared the joke, and reasonable people would not have been offended.

An application for the police to pay the defendant’s costs was refused.

Judgment

No written judgment is available.  This report has been prepared based on the account in the Herald Sun (Melbourne), 24 January 2007, at p.7.

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(1) Suggesting a failure to appreciate irony!