Home  |   Paul Pisale sentenced to 2 years imprisonment

Paul Pisale sentenced to 2 years imprisonment

Posted on Categories Criminal lawTags , , , Leave a comment on Paul Pisale sentenced to 2 years imprisonment
Paul Pisasale
The facts

Former Ipswich lord mayor Paul Pisale, a Singaporean friend named Yutian Li and a lawyer named Cameron McKenzie were accused of participating in a bizarre extortion plot:

“Prosecutors claim Yutian told Pisasale she wanted to punish Xin after learning he was married during their relationship.

Pisasale then allegedly posed as a private investigator in a series of phone calls in which he told Xin he needed to pay Yutian between $5000 and $10,000, saying she has “a very, very good case” against him and “could go after you”.

The money, Pisasale said, was reimbursement for Yutian’s private investigation fees.

“She was so upset. You could just see her whole world had been destroyed,” he told the court.

“She was a beautiful person. She was a very caring person and she would have given her 100 per cent to this bloke.

“She was broke, she was in Australia and she had nowhere to turn.

“All he had to do was reimburse her and let her start again but he was so determined not do.””

Pisale, Li and McKenzie were all found guilty by a jury of extortion.

Relevant law

Section 415 of the Criminal Code (Qld) provides that:

415 Extortion

(1) A person (the “demander”) who, without reasonable cause, makes a demand—

(a) with intent to—(i) gain a benefit for any person (whether or not the demander); or(ii) cause a detriment to any person other than the demander; and

(b) with a threat to cause a detriment to any person other than the demander;

commits a crime.

(2) It is immaterial that—

(a) the demand or threat is made in a way ordinarily used to inform the public rather than a particular person; or

(b) the threat does not specify the detriment to be caused; or

(c) the threat does not specify the person to whom the detriment is to be caused or specifies this in a general way.

(d) the detriment is to be caused by someone other than the demander.

District Court decision

Judge Brad Farr sentenced Pisale to 2 years imprisonment to be suspended after 12 months for the two counts of extortion.

Judge Farr sentenced Li to 15 months for each charge, partially suspended. She will serve seven months in prison and is likely to be deported following that sentence. McKenzie received 18 months’ jail suspended after serving nine months.

Conclusion

Paul Pisale’s fall from grace is now almost complete, although he does face further charges which will take their own course.

It will be interesting to see whether McKenzie remains a lawyer for very long.

Chief Justice of Queensland speaks out for judicial independence

Posted on Categories Criminal law, JudiciaryTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Chief Justice of Queensland speaks out for judicial independence

4422182-3x2-940x627

Catherine Holmes, the Chief Justice of Queensland has a piece in The Australian concerning some of the unfair and ill-informed criticisms of sentencing decisions in recent years:

https://specialreports.theaustralian.com.au/1437724/cover/

Importantly, she does not say that decisions should not be criticised. However, given that judges are not supposed to respond to criticisms or defend their own decisions, personal attacks against judges and criticisms of decisions which do not show the reasons for the decisions undermine confidence in the Courts, and can threaten judicial independence:

 

“I am concerned about tendencies in media and political discourse to speak about courts and their decisions in ways which can, directly or indirectly, undermine judicial independence.

This may sound a little precious, so I had better start by emphasising that I am not suggesting that anyone should desist from criticising judicial decisions. Discussion and criticism are to be expected in a healthy democracy.

My plea is for better informed criticism, because public confidence is essential to the preservation of what I contend is a very good legal system; and for better targeted criticism, because there seems to be an increasing, damaging willingness to attack that system as a whole on the strength of dissatisfaction with a very small number of decisions.”

The article may be behind a paywall, so a subscription may be required.

Indictable offences in the Magistrates Court of QLD

Posted on Categories Criminal lawTags , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Indictable offences in the Magistrates Court of QLD

Generally, indictable offences in Queensland are dealt with by the District or Supreme Courts, as they are usually serious offences. However, in some cases, indictable offences can or must be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.

The Criminal Code

Section 1 of the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) defines an “indictment” to mean a written charge preferred against an accused person in order to the person’s trial before some court other than justices exercising summary jurisdiction. A “summary conviction” is defined as summary conviction before a Magistrates Court.

Section 3 of the Criminal Code provides that offences are of 2 kinds, namely, criminal offences and regulatory offences. Criminal offences comprise crimes, misdemeanours and simple offences. Crimes and misdemeanours are indictable offences, which means that the offenders cannot, unless otherwise expressly stated, be prosecuted or convicted except upon indictment. A person guilty of a regulatory offence or a simple offence may be summarily convicted by a Magistrates Court.

Sections 1 and 3 of the Code make it clear that the indictable offences are to be dealt with in the District or Supreme Courts, unless the Code provides otherwise. In the District or Supreme Courts, a jury is normally the trier of fact in a criminal trial. In contrast, a trial in the Magistrates Court is a called a summary trial, and the presiding Magistrate is the sole trier of fact. A matter dealt with summarily is dealt with in the Magistrates Court.

Chapter 58A of the Criminal Code (containing sections 552A -552BB inclusive) provides for when indictable offences must or can be heard summarily.

Section 552A of the Criminal Code provides for a list of indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily on Prosecution election.

Section 552B of the Criminal Code provides for a list of indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily, unless the defendant elects for a jury trial.

Section 552BA of the Criminal Code provides for a list of indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily, unless they are excluded offences under section 552BB of the Code.

Sections 552A, 552B and 552BA of the Criminal Code are all subject to section 552D, which provides that the Magistrates Court must abstain from hearing and determining a charge and must instead conduct a committal proceeding if it is an offence listed at Schedule 1C of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, the Court is of the view that the defendant may not be adequately punished on summary conviction after considering submissions or if exceptional circumstances exist.

Section 552H of the Criminal Code provides that the maximum period of imprisonment under section 552A , 552B or 552BA is three years, unless the court is constituted by a magistrate imposing a drug and alcohol treatment order, in which case the maximum penalty is four years imprisonment.

Indictable offences which Prosecution can elect for summary trial

The list of indictable offences that must be dealt with summarily on Prosecution election is contained at section 552A(1) of the Criminal Code.

The offences listed include the commission, counselling or procuring, attempt or becoming an accessory after the fact of any of the following offences under the Criminal Code:

Section 141: Aiding persons to escape from lawful custody.

Section 142: Escaping from lawful custody.

Section 143: a person responsible for keeping someone in from lawful custody permitting escape from lawful custody.

Section 205A: Contravening order about information necessary to access information stored electronically.

Section 340: assaults committed with intent to commit a crime, or as part of an unlawful conspiracy in relation to any manufacture, trade, business, or occupation or committed against a police officer, a person performing a legal duty, a person aged over 60, or a person who relies on a guide, hearing or assistance dog, wheelchair or other remedial device.

Indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily unless defence elects jury trial

The indictable offences that must be dealt with summarily unless the defence elects for a jury trial are listed at Section 552B(1) of the Code.

The offences listed include the commission, counselling or procuring, attempt or becoming an accessory after the fact of any of the following offences under the Criminal Code:

A sexual offence without a circumstance of aggravation for which the defendant has pleaded guilty, the complainant is at least 14 years of age and the maximum sentence is more than three years.

Section 339: assault occasioning bodily harm which is not committed in company, without the use of a dangerous or offensive weapon or instrument and not during the term of a community service order.

An offence involving an assault without a circumstance of aggravation and which is not of a sexual nature, and for which the maximum penalty is more than 3 years but not more than 7 years.

Section 60A: Participants in criminal organisation being knowingly present in public places.

Section 60B: Participants in criminal organisation entering prescribed places and attending prescribed events.

Section 76:  Recruiting a person to become participant in criminal organisation.

Section 77B:  Habitually consorting with recognised offenders.

Section: 316A: Unlawful drink spiking.

Section 328A: Dangerous operation of a vehicle (with a circumstance of aggravation at Section 328A(2)).

359E Punishment of unlawful stalking if the maximum term of imprisonment for which the defendant is liable is not more than 5 years.

An offence against chapter 14 (Corrupt and improper practices at elections), division 2 (Legislative Assembly elections and referendums), if the maximum term of imprisonment for which the defendant is liable is more than 3 years.

An offence against chapter 22A (Prostitution), if the maximum term of imprisonment for which the defendant is liable is more than 3 years.

An offence against chapter 42A (Secret Commissions).

 

Indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily

Section 552BA(4) of the Code provides that ‘relevant offences’ must be heard and dealt with summarily.

Relevant offences are defined as indictable offences which either:

  1. 1. carry maximum sentences of three years or less; or
  2. 2. are an offence under part 6 of the Code, excluding an offence under Chapter 42A (secret commissions) or an ‘excluded offence’ listed at Section 552BB.

 

The list of excluded offences contained in the table of Section 552BB includes the following offences:

Section 461: Arson

Section 462: Endangering particular property by fire.

Section 463: Setting fire to crops and growing plants

Section 467: Endangering the safe use of vehicles and related transport infrastructure

Section 469A: Sabotage and threatening sabotage

Section 470: Attempts to destroy property by explosives

The list of excluded offences contained in the table of Section 552BB also includes the following indictable offences if committed in the following circumstances:

Section 398: stealing – if:

the amount stolen, yield or detriment is equal or more than $30,000, and the offender does not plead guilty; or

the thing stolen was a firearm for use in another indictable offence.

Section 399: fraudulent concealment of documents – if the offence is not committed in relation to a document recording title to property,  or the yield or detriment is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 403: Severing with intent to steal – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 406: Bringing stolen goods into Queensland – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 408A: Unlawful use or possession of motor vehicles, aircraft or vessels – if the value of the motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty, or if the offender is liable for at least 10 years imprisonment (ie if they used the vehicle for the commission of an indictable offence or intended to or did wilfully destroy, damage, remove or otherwise interfere with the mechanism (or part thereof) or other part of or equipment attached to the motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel).

Section 408C: Fraud – if the amount in question is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 408E Computer hacking and misuse – If the offender causes a detriment or damage or obtains a benefit for any person to the value of more than $5,000, or intends to commit an indictable offence, and the offender does not plead guilty.

Chapter 38 Stealing with violence or extortion by threats – excluding sections 413 (Assault with intent to steal) and 414 (Demanding property with menaces with intent to steal).

Section 419 Burglary – if:

the offender uses or threatens to use actual violence;

the offender is or pretends to be armed;

the offender damages or threatens to damage any property by at least $30,000 in value and the offender does not plead guilty; or

the offender then commits an indictable offence in the dwelling.

Section 421 Entering or being in premises and committing indictable offences – if:

the offender commits an indictable offence in the premises which must proceed on indictment; or

the offender enters by means of a break and the value of damage caused by the break is of at least $30,000.

Section 427 Unlawful entry of vehicle for committing indictable offence – if the offence is committed in the night or the offender uses or threatens violence, pretends to be armed, is in company or damages or threatens to damage any property.

Section 430 Fraudulent falsification of records – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 433 Receiving tainted property – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 435 Taking reward for recovery of property obtained by way of indictable offences – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Chapter 44 Offences analogous to stealing related to animals – if the value of the animals is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 468 Injuring animals– If the animal in question is stock, the value of the animals is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 469 Wilful damage – if any of the following apply:

property is damaged or destroyed by explosion;

the property in question is—(i) a bank or wall of the sea or inland water; or(ii) a work relating to a port or inland water; or

if the property in question is any part of a railway, or any work connected with a railway

If the property in question is an aircraft or anything whatever either directly or indirectly connected with the guidance control or operation of an aircraft

If the property in question is a vessel, a light, beacon, buoy, mark or signal used for navigation or for the guidance of sailors, a bank, work or wall of the sea or inland water

If the property in question is a manufacturing or agricultural machine or another thing used, or intended for use, for manufacture or for performing a process connected with the preparation of agricultural produce and is destroyed or rendered useless

If the property in question is a well or bore for water or the dam, bank, wall, or floodgate of a millpond or pool.

Section 471 Damaging mines – if the value of the damage is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 472 Interfering with marine signals – if the value of any damage or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 473 Interfering with navigation works – if the value of any damage or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 474 Communicating infectious diseases to animals – if the value of any damage or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 488 Forgery and uttering – if the document is a valuable security, insurance policy, testamentary instrument (whether the testator is living or dead) or registration document or is evidence of an interest in land, or a power of attorney, contract or document kept or issued by lawful authority OR the value of any yield or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Section 498 Falsifying warrants for money payable under public authority – if the value of any yield or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

514 Personation in general – If the representation is that the offender is a person entitled by will or operation of law to any specific property, and the person commits the offence with intent to obtain such property or possession thereof or the value of any yield or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.

Conclusion

There a number of indictable offences in Queensland that can or must be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court. Generally speaking, an indictable offence must be dealt with summarily if it carries a maximum sentence of three years or less, or it is an offence under part 6 of the Code (excluding Chapter 42A) for which the monetary value is less than $30,000 or the offender pleads guilty, and the offender is liable for a maximum period of imprisonment which is less than 14 years imprisonment.

When considering whether an indictable offence could or should must be dealt with summarily, one should consider the following:

    1. 1. Whether it is an offence referred to in sections 552A, 552B and 552BA of the Code;
    2. 2. If the offence is mentioned at section 552A(1) of the Code, whether the Prosecution has or will elect to have it dealt with summarily;
    3. 3. If the offence is mentioned at section 552BA of the Code, whether it is an excluded offence under section 552BB of the Code; and
    4. 4. Whether the Magistrates Court may decide under section 552D of the Code that the offender may not be adequately sentenced or if there are exceptional circumstances.

 

As the Magistrates Court deals with offences more quickly and can normally only sentence an offender for up to three years imprisonment, there are potential advantages for a defendant in having a matter dealt with summarily. However, such a course is subject to section 552D, which requires the Magistrate to abstain from exercising its jurisdiction if the offender may not be adequately sentenced or if there are exceptional circumstances.

Was Cardinal George Pell wrongly convicted?

Posted on Categories Criminal lawTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Was Cardinal George Pell wrongly convicted?

Pell

The facts

In December of last year, controversial Catholic Church Cardinal George Pell was convicted of one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four counts of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16 over allegations of abusing choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in the 1990s. This followed a previous trial that resulted in a hung jury.

The complainant said he and another choirboy left the liturgical procession at the end of one Sunday mass and went fossicking in the off-limits sacristy where they started swilling altar wine. Pell allegedly arrived unaccompanied, castigated them, and then, while fully robed in his copious liturgical vestments, proceeded to commit three sexual acts, including oral penetration of the complainant. The complainant said the sacristy door was wide open and altar servers were passing along the corridor. The complainant said he and the other boy then returned to choir practice.

Prior to both trials, Pell had been subject of substantial adverse pre-trial publicity, including a Royal Commission into child sex abuse, a book by Louise Milligan described as a hatchet job and an abusive song by Tim Minchin.

Relevant law

At common law, a person charged with a criminal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law (Woolmington v DPP [1935] AC 462; Howe v R (1980) 32 ALR 478). The presumption is not that the accused is not guilty, it is that the accused is innocent (R v Palmer (1992) 64 A Crim R 1).

The presumption of innocence has been enshrined in s25(1) of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic). The presumption of innocence is only relevant to the accused. It is a misdirection to tell the jury that witnesses are presumed to be innocent (Howe v R (1980) 32 ALR 478).

Section 141(1) of the Evidence Act 2008 (Vic) provides that:

“In a criminal proceeding, the court is not to find the case of the prosecution proved unless it is satisfied that it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.”

Section 49B of the Crimes Act 2008 (Vic) provides that:

(1)     A person (A) commits an offence if—        

(a)     A intentionally—             

(i)     sexually penetrates another person (B);…

and       

(b)     B is a child under the age of 16 years.   

(2)     A person who commits an offence against subsection (1) is liable to level 4 imprisonment (15 years maximum).

Criticisms of the jury’s decision

Andrew Bolt:

“Here is why I don’t believe this gothic story — or not enough to think this conviction reasonable.

One of the boys, now dead, denied he’d been abused.

The other, whose identity and testimony remain secret, didn’t speak of it for many years.

The attack is meant to have happened straight after Mass, when Pell is known to have traditionally spoken to worshippers leaving Mass.

It allegedly happened in the sacristy, normally a very busy room, where Pell would have known people were almost certain to walk in.

The boys had allegedly slipped away from the procession after Mass to break into the sacristy, but none of the other choristers who gave evidence said they’d noticed them doing so, or noticed them rejoining the choir later.

Pell was normally followed everywhere during and after Mass by the master of ceremonies, Monsignor Charles Portelli, who testified that he escorted the then Archbishop from the moment he arrived at the cathedral, until the moment he left. He declared the assault impossible. Not a single witness from what was a busy cathedral at the time of the alleged abuse noticed a thing during the estimated 10 minutes of this alleged attack.”

Frank Brennan:

“The second boy was once asked by his mother if he had ever been abused by anybody and he said he had not…

Anyone familiar with the conduct of a solemn cathedral mass with full choir would find it most unlikely that a bishop would, without grave reason, leave a recessional procession and retreat to the sacristy unaccompanied.

Witnesses familiar with liturgical vestments were called. They gave compelling evidence it was impossible to produce an erect penis through a seamless alb. An alb is a long robe, worn under a heavier chasuble. It is secured and set in place by a cincture, which is like a tightly drawn belt. An alb cannot be unbuttoned or unzipped, the only openings being small slits on the side to allow access to trouser pockets.

The complainant’s initial claim to police was that Pell had parted his vestments, but an alb cannot be parted; it is like a seamless dress.

Later, the complainant said Pell moved the vestments to the side. An alb secured with a cincture cannot be moved to the side. The police never inspected the vestments during their investigations, nor did the prosecution show that the vestments could be parted or moved to the side as the complainant had alleged. The proposition that the offences charged were committed immediately after mass by a fully robed archbishop in the sacristy with an open door and in full view from the corridor seemed incredible to my mind.

I was very surprised by the verdict. In fact, I was devastated. My only conclusion is the jury must have disregarded many of the criticisms so tellingly made by Richter of the complainant’s evidence…

Pell has been in the public spotlight for a very long time. There are some who would convict him of all manner of things in the court of public opinion, no matter what the evidence. Others would never convict him of anything, holding him in the highest regard. The criminal justice system is intended to withstand these preconceptions. The system is under serious strain, when it comes to Pell.”

Greg Craven:

“The main institutions involved here are the media and the police. The media must report cases fairly, abide by the letter and spirit of the law, and not barrack for either side. The police present evidence impartially, working for justice, not conviction. Media and police never combine to form a pro-conviction cheer squad.

This is where the Pell case has gone terribly wrong. Impartial judge and jury accepted, parts of the media — notably the ABC and former Fairfax journalists — have spent years attempting to ensure Pell is the most odious figure in Australia. They seemed to want him in the dock as an ogre, not a defendant.

Worse, elements of Victoria Police, including Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton, co-operated in this. Ashton’s repeated announcements of impending charges and references to “victims” rather than “alleged victims” were matched only by the coincidences in timing between police pronouncements and favoured media exclusives…

So what we have witnessed is a combined effort by much of the media, including the public broadcaster, and elements of Victoria’s law enforcement agency, to blacken the name of someone before he went to trial…

This is not a story about whether a jury got it right or wrong, or about whether justice is seen to prevail. It’s a story about whether a jury was ever given a fair chance to make a decision, and whether our justice system can be heard above a media mob.”

Paul Kelly:

“There have been two trials of Cardinal George Pell — in the court of justice to decide if he was guilty of sexual abuse of children, and in the court of public opinion over nearly two decades that saw him accused of indifference, deception and ultimately evil compliance in the monumental sins of the Catholic Church.

The tests in these trials are different. The test in the first trial was whether the evidence showed Pell guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” as a sexual predator who abused his authority to brutally exploit two choirboys. There is no test in the second trial — no judge or jury — just the hardening of opinion towards Pell and then his demonisation as the nation’s senior Catholic during the long and climactic revelations of unforgivable sexual abuse within the church.

The law requires these trials to be separate. Indeed, justice ­depends upon it. Yet how realistic is this?…

Pell cannot escape responsibility for the failures of the church but the sustained visceral hostility towards Pell transcends institutional accountability. The vile hatred towards him is worse than displayed towards a serial killer. Veteran lawyers said privately they had never seen anything like it in their careers. What does this tell us not just about Pell but about ourselves? The Pell story goes beyond the institutional and cultural failure of the Catholic Church. It is far bigger, more complicated and dangerous…

Pell arrived suddenly, censured them and then, with the sacristy door open, people passing in the corridor, and still in his heavy mass vestments including the alb, a long secured vestment without front buttons or zipper, proceeded to sexually assault the boys, whom he did not know, in an extremely brief period of time. There was no witness to support the complainant. The former choirboy’s evidence was given in secret. Brennan called the entire scenario ­“incredible”.”

Joe Hildebrand:

“For many it is clear that Pell’s jailing is a watershed moment that has delivered some kind of catharsis, some sense that the system finally worked — perhaps even some sense of revenge. For many others — including the dead — it is far too little, far too late.

Certainly it has been clear from many responses, by survivors and commentators alike, that they see Pell as being punished for many other crimes on top of the one confirmed in the Victorian County Court.

But by conflating one incident at St Patrick’s Cathedral in the mid-1990s with the myriad atrocities committed by Catholic clergymen throughout the decades — including Pell’s own sins of omission — the sense of justice may be short lived.

As satisfying as it may be for victims of church abuse to see Pell punished, it is vital that he is punished for the right thing.”

Conclusion

If the above reports are true (and there are no important facts which would have supported the convictions), it seems likely that it was not open to the jury to be satisfied of Pell’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt and he should have his conviction overturned on appeal. It is unsurprising that legal experts assess Pell’s chances of having his conviction overturned on appeal as quite good.

Victoria (unlike NSW and QLD) does now allow for judge only trials. Serious consideration should be given to changing this, as the Pell case demonstrates the need for defendants who have received such awful pre-trial publicity to have their case tried in a way where such adverse publicity will not affect the result of the trial.

And given that this is the case, a successful appeal should probably lead to a verdict of not guilty being entered instead of another retrial.

Lawyer X confirmed to be Nicola Gobbo

Posted on Categories Criminal law, Legal professionTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Lawyer X confirmed to be Nicola Gobbo

Gobbo

Nicola Gobbo, the barrister at the centre of the scandal that sparked the Victorian Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants has been publicly identified, after orders made to conceal her identity were lifted today.

Ms Gobbo’s history:

“A former legal counsel to some of Australia’s most notorious criminals, Ms Gobbo is understood to have helped Victoria Police in at least 386 cases involving Melbourne’s underworld during her time acting as a paid police informant, following her initial recruitment in 1995.

The information she provided helped lead to the arrest and conviction of many, including some of her clients such as gangland boss Tony Mokbel, who in 2012 was sentenced to 30 years’ for his head role in the infamous multimillion-dollar drug syndicate known as ‘The Company’.

Following the December announcement that there would be a Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants, largely centred around a female barrister who the public now knows to be Ms Gobbo, Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd QC, wrote to 20 criminals — including Mokbel — to tell them their convictions may have been affected as a result of Ms Gobbo’s role in acting as a police informant. 

“EF [the barrister’s pseudonym], while purporting to act as counsel for the convicted persons, provided information to Victoria Police that had the potential to undermine the convicted persons’ defences to criminal charges of which they were later convicted”, the December High Court judgment noted.

“EF’s actions in purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons while covertly informing against them were fundamental and appalling breaches of EF’s obligations as counsel to her clients and of EF’s duties to the court.

“Likewise, Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging EF to do as she did and were involved in sanctioning atrocious breaches of the sworn duty of every police officer to discharge all duties imposed on them faithfully and according to law without favour or affection, malice or ill-will.

“As a result, the prosecution of each convicted person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system.”

In first announcing the royal commission, the Andrews government issued a statement, saying that the integrity of the criminal justice system is paramount, and all people charged with crimes are entitled to a fair trial, no matter who they are.

The same statement acknowledged that while Victoria Police assured the state government that “its practices have changed since the barrister’s recruitment as an informant”, the Victorian community “has a right to further independent assurance that these past practices have been stamped out, as well as an understanding of what happened in this instance”.

“The royal commission will provide that assurance,” the state government said.”

Pell conviction suppression order lifted

Posted on Categories Criminal lawTags , , , Leave a comment on Pell conviction suppression order lifted

Pell

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic and formerly the third highest ranking official in the Vatican, was charged with historical child sex offences in June 2017.

In December of last year he was convicted of one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four counts of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16.

Due to a trial for further sex offences, a suppression order was made preventing the media in Australia from reporting on the matter.

That suppression order has now been lifted due to the dropping of charges against him related to the alleged indecent assault of boys at the Eureka swimming pool in Ballarat in the 1970s:

“Cardinal George Pell has become the world’s most senior Catholic official to be convicted of child sexual abuse, after a jury found him guilty of abusing two choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral just months into his appointment as Archbishop in 1996…

Some details of the allegations against him were made public in a committal hearing in March, 2018, but the criminal cases against him have proceeded in secret, due to court-ordered suppression orders.

Pell was tried twice over allegations of abusing choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in the 1990s. The first trial in August resulted in a hung jury. At a second trial in December he was convicted of one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four counts of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16.

The December jury took three-and-a half days to find Pell guilty of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting his friend after Sunday Solemn Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.”

 

Father Frank Brennan is not sure the jury got it right. Unsurprisingly, an appeal against conviction has been filed.

 

Online dating rapist sentenced to 10 years

Posted on Categories Criminal lawTags , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Online dating rapist sentenced to 10 years

One suspects the sentence would have been more severe if he hadn’t been suffering from muscular dystrophy, although the guilty plea no doubt also helped:

Callum Joseph Haggerty was slumped in the dock, unable to look at the judge as she delivered her verdict in the Brisbane District court this morning saying that the acts were “despicable”.
On two occasions in 2015, victims were women that he had met online, where he used misleading information to lure them in, claiming he was a wealthy business owner.
He then used physical violence on multiple occasions to overpower the women, resulting in their respective rapes.
While on bail in 2016 for the previous offences he claimed a third victim.
The court heard that Haggerty used language such as, “It could be a lot worse for you” and “suck it up b**ch,” as a means to intimidate and humiliate his victims.
Prosecutor Matthew Hynes said in his submission that the rapist had an “appalling attitude towards women” and that his remarks were “cold blooded”.

Presumably once he is released in 8-10 years time, he will no longer be able to physically attack women.

Haggarty intends to appeal his sentence, although recent precedent would suggest his prospects are poor.

Baden-Clay and the perils of giving evidence in murder trials

Posted on Categories Criminal lawTags , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Baden-Clay and the perils of giving evidence in murder trials

Baden Clay

The facts

Allison Baden-Clay was reported missing by her husband Gerard Baden-Clay on the morning of 20 April 2012. Her body was found on 30 April 2012 under a bridge on a bank of Kholo Creek, some 13 kilometres from her home. Leaves found on the body were from trees of six species that grew at the Baden-Clay and his wife’s home; four of these did not grow at the site at which the body was found. Baden-Clay and his wife’s eldest child thought that her mother was wearing a “sloppy jacket” and pyjama pants at the time she was watching television. Her body was found clothed in three-quarter length pants, socks, sneakers and a singlet top which had a bra built into it. Blood matching her DNA profile was found in the rear section of her car, which had only been acquired in February 2012. Tests on Baden-Clay’s mobile phone showed that it had been placed on a charger, adjacent to the side of the bed on which he slept, at 1.48am, at a time when he claimed he was asleep.

Gerard Baden-Clay had observable injuries to his right cheek when he reported his wife missing.

Prior to Allison Baden-Clay’s disappearance, Gerard Baden-Clay had been having an affair with Ms Toni McHugh since August 2008. He and his wife were due to go to a conference on 20 April 2012 that Ms McHugh would also attend.

Baden-Clay was also in financial difficulty at the time of his wife’s death.

Baden-Clay gave evidence at his own trial in 2014, in which he denied any involvement in his wife’s disappearance, death or the disposal of her body. He said that he went to bed at about 10pm, leaving his wife, who was watching television, in the living room. He awoke just after 6am on 20 April 2012. His wife was not at home, but she often went for an early morning walk. That morning, he was responsible for getting the children ready for school and taking them there. He testified he was “under the pump a little bit”, was “rushing that morning” and that he had cut himself shaving.

Three experts gave evidence that there were two categories of injuries to the Baden-Clay’s right cheek. Their evidence was that it was most likely that fingernails caused one set of scratches and it was implausible that those scratches had been caused by a shaving razor. A second set of marks appeared to be different. They were fresher, and were consistent with having been caused by a razor “particularly if moved from side to side as it was drawn from front to back or back to front across the face.”

Gerard Baden-Clay was convicted of his wife’s murder by the jury. He appealed his conviction pursuant to s 668E(1) of the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) on the ground that the verdict was unreasonable, and two grounds concerning the adequacy of the trial judge’s summing up to the jury.

Relevant law

Section of 302 the Criminal Code (Qld) provides that:

“if the offender intends to cause the death of the person killed or that of some other person or if the offender intends to do to the person killed or to some other person some grievous bodily harm… is guilty of “murder”.”

Section 668E(1) of the Criminal Code (Qld), which concerns appeals in ordinary cases, provides that:

“The Court on any such appeal against conviction shall allow the appeal if it is of opinion that the verdict of the jury should be set aside on the ground that it is unreasonable, or can not be supported having regard to the evidence, or that the judgment of the court of trial should be set aside on the ground of the wrong decision of any question of law, or that on any ground whatsoever there was a miscarriage of justice, and in any other case shall dismiss the appeal.”

In Barca v The Queen [1975] HCA 42, Gibbs, Stephen and Mason JJ said:

“When the case against an accused person rests substantially upon circumstantial evidence the jury cannot return a verdict of guilty unless the circumstances are ‘such as to be inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis other than the guilt of the accused’: Peacock v The King. To enable a jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused it is necessary not only that his guilt should be a rational inference but that it should be ‘the only rational inference that the circumstances would enable them to draw’: Plomp v The Queen; see also Thomas v The Queen.”

In Weissensteiner v The Queen [1993] HCA 65, it was said that:

“in a criminal trial, hypotheses consistent with innocence may cease to be rational or reasonable in the absence of evidence to support them when that evidence, if it exists at all, must be within the knowledge of the accused.”

In R v White [1998] 2 SCR 72, in the Supreme Court of Canada, Major J said that:

“As a general rule, it will be for the jury to decide, on the basis of the evidence as a whole, whether the post-offence conduct of the accused is related to the crime before them rather than to some other culpable act. It is also within the province of the jury to consider how much weight, if any, such evidence should be accorded in the final determination of guilt or innocence. For the trial judge to interfere in that process will in most cases constitute a usurpation of the jury’s exclusive fact-finding role.”

Court of Appeal decision

The QLD Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. It held that “there was no evidence of motive in the sense of a reason to kill”, and therefore it was not open for the jury to find that Baden-Clay had intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm to his wife.

The Court of Appeal held that the evidence at trial was not able to exclude a reasonable hypothesis that:

“there was a physical confrontation between [Baden-Clay] and his wife in which he delivered a blow which killed her (for example, by the effects of a fall hitting her head against a hard surface) without intending to cause serious harm; and, in a state of panic and knowing that he had unlawfully killed her, he took her body to Kholo Creek in the hope that it would be washed away, while lying about the causes of the marks on his face which suggested conflict.”

Remarking on Baden-Clay’s facial injuries, the Court of Appeal opined that:

“There is nothing about the facial scratches to indicate the circumstances in which they were inflicted; whether they occurred in the course of a heated and perhaps physical argument or in resisting a murderous attack.”

The Court of Appeal also said that:

“The jury could properly have rejected every word [Baden-Clay] said as a lie. But that would, with the exception of his explanation of the scratches on his face, have done nothing to advance the Crown case. Conclusions that he had lied in that regard and that he had taken steps to dispose of his wife’s body were properly to be taken into account, as evidence of a consciousness of guilt, in the context of all the evidence in the case. But the lies, or the lies taken in combination with the disposal of the body, would not enable the jury to draw an inference of intent to kill or do grievous bodily harm if there were, after consideration of all the evidence, equally open a possibility that all of that conduct was engaged in through a consciousness of a lesser offence; in this case, manslaughter.”

The two grounds concerning the adequacy of the trial judge’s summing up to the jury were rejected.

The result in the Court of Appeal was that the conviction of murder was set aside, and a conviction for manslaughter was instead imposed.

High Court decision

The Crown appealed to the High Court.

In the High Court, the Crown argued that because no hypothesis of unintentional death caused by Baden-Clay was raised by the defence at trial and there was no evidence to support such a hypothesis, it was not a hypothesis which could form the basis of a reasonable doubt in the jury’s minds. The Crown also argued that the evidence of Baden-Clay’s ongoing relationship with McHugh, his wife’s “venting and grilling” concerning that relationship and the imminent meeting of McHugh and his wife at the conference on the day after her disappearance could fairly lead to the jury inferring an intent to kill. Baden-Clay’s post-offence lies and deceptions were also said to support such a conclusion.

Baden-Clay submitted that as the case for murder depended entirely upon circumstantial evidence and the onus of proof of murderous intent was always upon the Crown, the jury could not return a verdict of guilty. He argued that a hypothesis consistent with innocence of murder was open on the evidence. Baden-Clay’s post-offence lies and deceptions were submitted to be neutral on the question of whether he had intended to cause his wife’s death.

The High Court noted that Baden-Clay’s own evidence at trial was that he was not present and had no involvement in his wife’s death, and held that that evidence had the following effect:

“The evidence given in the present case by the respondent narrowed the range of hypotheses reasonably available upon the evidence as to the circumstances of the death of the respondent’s wife. Not only did the respondent not give evidence which might have raised the hypothesis on which the Court of Appeal acted, the evidence he gave was capable of excluding that hypothesis.

The Court of Appeal’s conclusion to the contrary was not based on evidence. It was mere speculation or conjecture rather than acknowledgment of a hypothesis available on the evidence. In this case, there was no evidence led at trial that suggested that the respondent killed his wife in a physical confrontation without intending to kill her. There were “no positive proved facts from which the inference” drawn by the Court of Appeal could be made. There was no evidence at trial of any injury to the wife’s body that might have killed her… Not only were there no fractures to the head, which might have suggested the wife had fallen and hit her head on a hard surface (as in the example given by the Court of Appeal), there were no other fractures on the body.”

The significance of Baden-Clay’s own evidence at trial was further explained by the High Court as follows:

“To say that the respondent’s evidence was disbelieved does not mean that his evidence could reasonably be disregarded altogether as having no bearing on the availability of hypotheses consistent with the respondent’s innocence of murder. His evidence was important, even if it was disbelieved, because it was open to the jury to consider that the hypothesis identified by the Court of Appeal was not a reasonable inference from the evidence when the only witness who could have given evidence to support the hypothesis gave evidence which necessarily excluded it as a possibility.

The Court of Appeal should not have treated the case as one in which it was open to it to identify a hypothesis as to the circumstances of the death of the deceased on the basis that the respondent’s evidence could be disregarded as if it had not been given at all.”

The High Court also observed that a further problem with the Court of Appeal’s approach was that at trial the case was conducted on the basis that Baden-Clay was either guilty or murder or had no part to play in his wife’s death, and neither the Crown nor the defence had ever suggested that Baden-Clay may be guilty of manslaughter rather than murder. Indeed, his Counsel admitted this approach had been adopted by the defence as a “considered tactical position”.

Furthermore, the High Court held that it was open for the jury on the evidence to find beyond reasonable doubt that Baden-Clay had intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm when he killed his wife. The jury were entitled to conclude “that it tested credulity too far to suggest that his evident desire to be rid of his wife was fortuitously fulfilled by her unintended death”.

Citing the above comment of Major J in R v White with approval, the High Court held that:

“[Baden-Clay’s] false denials to police about his ongoing affair, his suggestion to Ms McHugh that she should “lie low”, and his enquiry of her as to whether she had revealed the affair to the police were all capable of being regarded by the jury as evidencing a strong anxiety to conceal from police the existence and true nature of his affair with Ms McHugh. This anxiety could reasonably be seen as indicative that, in his mind, the affair and the killing were inter-related, and that the killing was not an unintended, tragic death of his wife, but an intentional killing…

It was open to the jury, in this case, to regard the lengths to which the respondent went to conceal his wife’s body and to conceal his part in her demise as beyond what was likely, as a matter of human experience, to have been engendered by a consciousness of having unintentionally killed his wife.”

Finally, the jury was also entitled to consider and rely on “the absence of any signs that a weapon was used to cause the death”, combined with “the difficulty involved in killing a human being without the use of a weapon unless the act of killing is driven by a real determination to cause death or grievous bodily harm” in support of the necessary element of intent.

The result was Baden-Clay’s murder conviction was reinstated.

Conclusion

The High Court found that the Court of Appeal erred because it held that there was sufficient evidence of intent, and that due to a lack of evidence to support the hypothesis that Baden-Clay has accidentally killed his wife such a hypothesis was mere conjecture. As a result, the Court of Appeal’s decision was set aside and the murder conviction was re-instated.

Significantly, Baden-Clay’s own evidence at trial was held by the Court to support a finding that he did intend to kill his wife, even though that very evidence was obviously rejected by the jury. According to the High Court, the jury were entitled to conclude that Baden-Clay’s false testimony that he had no part whatsoever in his wife’s death would not have been given if he had not intended to kill her. In other words, Baden-Clay would have been expected to admit his role rather than give evidence denying it he had accidentally killed his wife.

The result is, as Baden-Clay’s lawyer Peter Shields has pointed out, many people accused of murder now are strongly advised to not give evidence at their own trials, because “if an accused doesn’t give evidence then they’re not subject to that forensic criticism.” In other words, the false testimony provided by a person accused of murder can according to the High Court be legitimately used by jurors to help conclude that they did intend to kill, and therefore that they are guilty of murder rather than manslaughter.

Conversely, if an accused person does decide to give evidence at their own murder trial, they should ensure that their evidence is truthful and (if possible) does not provide a jury with a belief that their evidence consists of self-serving lies. According to the High Court, Baden-Clay’s decision to give evidence at his own trial denying any involvement whatsoever in his wife’s death could be used by the jury to conclude that such an attempt to conceal his involvement inferred murder, and that such false evidence would not have been provided if her death was an accident on his part. The effect of this decision is that those accused of murder are in effect encouraged to ‘come clean’ and admit their involvement (if any) if they wish to be acquitted of murder.

Finally, the High Court’s decision confirms that evidence of intent can be proven beyond reasonable doubt even if it is based entirely on circumstantial evidence. In this case, Baden-Clay’s stated intention to be rid of his wife, the lack of evidence suggesting accidental death and Baden-Clay’s post-offence conduct provided a sufficient basis for the jury to conclude that Gerard Baden-Clay had intentionally killed his wife.

Alleged Bourke Street killer to stand trial

Posted on Categories Criminal lawTags , , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Alleged Bourke Street killer to stand trial

A jury has decided that accused Bourke Street driver James Gargasoulas should stand trial.

Gargasoulas

Relevant law

Section 6 of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to Be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) provides: 

When is a person unfit to stand trial?

    (1)     A person is unfit to stand trial for an offence if, because the person’s mental processes are disordered or impaired, the person is or, at some time during the trial, will be—

        (a)     unable to understand the nature of the charge; or

        (b)     unable to enter a plea to the charge and to exercise the right to challenge jurors or the jury; or

        (c)     unable to understand the nature of the trial (namely that it is an inquiry as to whether the person committed the offence); or

        (d)     unable to follow the course of the trial; or

        (e)     unable to understand the substantial effect of any evidence that may be given in support of the prosecution; or

        (f)     unable to give instructions to his or her legal practitioner.

    (2)     A person is not unfit to stand trial only because he or she is suffering from memory loss.

Jury’s decision

Two psychiatrists and a psychologist gave evidence at a Victorian Supreme Court hearing to determine Gargasoulas’ current mental state and his fitness to stand trial.

All three experts agreed that Gargasoulas was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and delusions. Forensic psychiatrists Andrew Carroll and Lester Walton opined that Gargasoulas could not enter a plea, give instructions to his lawyers or understand the substantial effect of the evidence. However, Michael Daffern, a psychologist was of the view that Gargasoulas was fit.

The jury determined that Gargasoulas was fit for trial and should face six counts of murder and 28 counts of attempted murder.

Solicitor struck off for the second time

Posted on Categories Criminal law, Professional disciplineTags , , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Solicitor struck off for the second time

Michael James Quinn has the dubious honour of being the first solicitor in Queensland legal history to be struck off twice.

Legal advice

Normally when a lawyer is removed from the roll (‘struck off’) that effectively ends their legal career, as they are permanently ineligible to obtain a practising certificate which would enable them to practice law again. In this case, the unusual history of the matter led to the practitioner being struck off twice.

The facts

From 1 April 2009, Michael James Quinn practised as sole practitioner in the firm Q5 Law Proprietary Limited until 4 May 2012 when his practising certificate was cancelled.

In 2015, Quinn was first struck off by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) after failing to appear and contest 64 charges arising from the trust account of Q5 Law Proprietary Limited.

In 2016, Quinn successfully appealed this decision because QCAT had failed to satisfy itself that the charges had been proven pursuant to section 453 of the Legal Profession Act 2007. The Court of Appeal set aside the QCAT orders and ordered a re-hearing.

On 12 October 2017 Quinn was convicted after trial by a District Court jury of one count of fraud with a circumstance of aggravation contrary to section 408C of the Criminal Code for trust account defalcations of Q5 Law Proprietary Limited. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, with immediate suspension and an operational period of two years.

The Legal Services Commissioner applied to QCAT for another order that Quinn be struck off for the trust account defalcations conviction as well as unlawful drawing of trust moneys, retention of trust moneys in a general account contrary and a failure to keep records as required by the Legal Profession Act 2007.

The Law

Section 408C of the Criminal Code provides that:

“(1) A person who dishonestly

(a) applies to his or her own use or to the use of any person

(i) property belonging to another; or

(ii) property belonging to the person, or which is in the person’s possession, either solely or jointly with another person, subject to a trust, direction or condition or on account of any other person; or

(b) obtains property from any person; or

(c) induces any person to deliver property to any person; or

(d) gains a benefit or advantage, pecuniary or otherwise, for any person; or

(e) causes a detriment, pecuniary or otherwise, to any person; or

(f) induces any person to do any act which the person is lawfully entitled to abstain from doing; or

(g) induces any person to abstain from doing any act which that person is lawfully entitled to do; or

(h) makes off, knowing that payment on the spot is required or expected for any property lawfully supplied or returned or for any service lawfully provided, without having paid and with intent to avoid payment;

commits the crime of fraud.”

Section 419 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 states as follows:

419 Meaning of professional misconduct

(1)”Professional misconduct” includes

(a) unsatisfactory professional conduct of an Australian legal practitioner, if the conduct involves a substantial or consistent failure to reach or keep a reasonable standard of competence and diligence; and

(b) conduct of an Australian legal practitioner, whether happening in connection with the practice of law or happening otherwise than in connection with the practice of law that would, if established, justify a finding that the practitioner is not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice.

Section 452 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 states as follows:

“Starting proceeding before a disciplinary body

(1) The commissioner may apply—

(a) to the tribunal for an order against an Australian legal practitioner in relation to a complaint against the legal practitioner or an investigation matter.”

Section 453 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 states as follows:

“Hearings

The disciplinary body must hear and decide each allegation stated in the discipline application.”

Section 456 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 relevantly provides as follows:

“456 Decisions of tribunal about an Australian legal practitioner

(1) If, after the tribunal has completed a hearing of a discipline application in relation to a complaint or an investigation matter against an Australian legal practitioner, the tribunal is satisfied that the practitioner has engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct, the tribunal may make any order as it thinks fit, including any 1 or more of the orders stated in this section.

(2) The tribunal may, under this subsection, make 1 or more of the following in a way it considers appropriate—

(a) an order recommending that the name of the Australian legal practitioner be removed from the local roll;

(b) an order that the practitioner’s local practising certificate be suspended for a stated period or cancelled;

(c) an order that a local practising certificate not be granted to the practitioner before the end of a stated period.”

QCAT’s decision

The charges and the facts supporting them were expressly admitted by Quinn.

As QCAT Member Justice Daubney noted, Quinn’s conduct clearly amounted to professional misconduct because it involved both a substantial and a consistent failure over a period of 16 months to keep reasonable standards of competence and diligence, and also justified a finding that the practitioner is not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice. This was notwithstanding the fact that no client of Quinn’s had suffered any loss.

Justice Daubney then made the following observations:

“It is trite to observe that the clients of solicitors must be able to expect absolute probity from solicitors in relation to dealings with moneys held in trust. Various terms have been used to describe the level of that probity. Those terms have elevated the extent of that probity to levels such as it being a sacred trust. Whatever words one uses, the inherent relationship between a solicitor and their client must be founded on trust, and a necessary practical manifestation of that trust must be the absolute probity with which solicitors both theoretically and in practice approach their dealings with moneys that have been entrusted to them by or on behalf of clients.”

Due to the relative currency of Quinn’s conviction, the serious nature of the offending and the fact that that offending occurred in the course of his conduct of a legal practice, Justice Daubney determined that the appropriate sanction was removal from the roll.

Justice Daubney consequently ordered that Quinn’s name again be removed from the roll and that he pay the Commissioner’s costs.

Conclusion

This case is one of many that shows that trust account defalcations are a serious matter, and in cases where there are numerous or serious defalcations a solicitor can be struck off for them, even when their own clients are not left worse off.

Quinn’s win in the Court of Appeal, in which he managed to have an order that he be removed from the roll overturned, was a temporary victory. A subsequent fraud conviction in relation to some of the same trust accounting issues for which he had been struck off at first instance ensured that he would be struck off again.

© Sterling Law QLD . All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2018 Sterling Law (Qld) Pty Ltd ACN 165 643 881