Australia – Judge: ‘One of the most bizarre judgments I have ever read’

Lawyers Weekly Australia

In the words of the presiding Supreme Court judge, “the transcript must be seen to be believed”.

On 10 February 2022, a man named Faiva Peckham breached an apprehended domestic violence order and was arrested. Later that day, he appeared in the Dubbo Local Court, before Local Court Magistrate GR Wilson, who had finished the “generally busy” Dubbo list at 2:20pm.

Supreme Court Justice Peter Hamill said: “Several remarkable things happened in the Dubbo Local Court that day. The proceedings were a travesty.”

The proceedings

During the proceedings, Hamill J noted, the following occurred:

  • “There was no Prosecutor present, either in the courtroom or via a video link, at any stage of the proceedings,” meaning that the prosecution had no opportunity to be heard;
  • It was “not explicitly stated” that Mr Peckham was entering a plea of guilty;
  • The ALS solicitor, “to whom no criticism is directed and who had commenced practice just a few weeks earlier”, was barely given the opportunity to be heard;
  • LCM Wilson had no Court Attendance Notice or Facts Sheet, and did not have access to Mr Peckham’s criminal history;
  • The Magistrate gave no reasons for disposing of the case under s10A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act;
  • The Police Prosecutor and the ALS solicitor only became aware that the matter had been finalised upon receiving an email from the “Court Process Officer” indicating that Mr Peckham was “ready to be released”, and the ALS solicitor only realised that the matter had been finalised when she received an email from the prosecutor later in the afternoon.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against the sentence and, in the alternative, sought judicial review of the decision, arguing that the Prosecutor was denied procedural fairness and that the Magistrate failed to give reasons.

The transcript of the Local Court proceedings, Hamill J said, “makes it readily understandable why the Director felt the need to bring this matter to the Supreme Court and why this Court must intervene”.

“The transcript must be seen to be believed,” His Honour stated.

Mr Peckham’s solicitor had raised the absence of the prosecutor at the outset. “It was the first thing she said,” Hamill J said, to which Wilson LCM said, “We need the prosecutor”.

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