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.
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.
(1) Suggesting a failure to appreciate irony!