Yearly Archive 2019

Howard v Surf Life Saving Australia NSW [2019] NSWSC 1212 (13 September 2019)

In this matter, Greg Walsh acted for the Plaintiff, Graham Howard, a long serving member of the North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club.

Mr Howard had been subject to allegations of misconduct which was the subject of an investigation and disciplinary hearing.

He was suspended for two years.

Justice Pembroke, of the Supreme Court, heard the case and determined that there was a wholesale failure of the Judiciary Committee to comply with its own regulations. The Committee had also failed to provide Mr Howard with basic information which he was entitled to on grounds of procedural fairness. The unfairness of Surf Life Saving NSW was revealed in the course of the hearing by the Judicia Committee as observed by His Honour at paragraph [19] of the judgement.

The decision of the Judiciary Committee was set aside and the Defendant was ordered to pay costs. 

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Police Powers and Citizen’s Rights

Greg Walsh OAM[1]

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Presented as part of the Criminal Law CLE Conference

Toongabbie Legal Centre

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28 September 2019

 


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One of our greatest Jurists, Michael Kirby said “the protection of our liberties does not ultimately depend on Parliaments or even the Courts, it depends on the love of the people for liberty.”

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INTRODUCTION

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  1. As Justice Kearney of the Northern Territory Supreme Court observed:

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    “It is a basic obligation of a police officer to be fully aware of limitations on his power to arrest, since the citizens’ right to personal liberty under the law is “the most elementary and important of all common law rights””.[2].

  2. As His Honour observed, a citizen’s right to personal liberty is at the cornerstone of all common law rights. Deane J in Donaldson v Broomby (1992) 60 FLR 124; 40 ALR 525; 50 Crim R 160 said:“Arrest is the deprivation of freedom. The ultimate instrument of arrest is force. The customary companions of arrest are ignominy and fear. A police power of arbitrary arrest is a negation of any true right to personal liberty. A police practice of arbitrary arrest is a hallmark of tyranny”.
  3. This paper seeks to address the importance of citizens’ rights in the context of police powers.

 

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Repressed Memories: A Current Perspective

Greg Walsh OAM[1]

 

23 January 2017


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This is a strange time, Mister. No man may longer doubt the powers of the dark are gathered in monstrous attack upon this village. There is too much evidence now to deny it. You will agree, sir?

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Reverend Hale in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible

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Introduction

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Allegations of sexual assault polarise people like no other issue. This applies equally to members of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession.

There are those who readily assume that any person against whom an allegation of sexual assault is made must be guilty. There are others who understand the fundamental importance of the presumption of innocence.

The 1980’s and 90’s heralded an enormous interest and focus in respect of issues of sexual assault. This lead to a number of legislative changes in each of the States of Australia. The essential basis for the plethora of reports and legislative changes have been that the criminal law, does not protect persons from sexual assault and that there is an overriding need to obtain greater protection for victims and to have higher conviction rates.

There is no doubting that in terms of pure politics this approach is one of enormous attraction to Governments. The perception is that there is overriding public support for being seen to be active in protecting alleged victims of sexual assault. Further, it is always good politics to be seen to be being hard in respect of criminals.

These trends have seen a major shift away from a “due-process” model to a “crime control” Criminal Justice System. The latter places particular emphasis upon an almost “therapeutic” approach in cases of this nature.

This paper, though dealing with the issue of repressed memory, nevertheless seeks to alert those who work within the Criminal Justice System of the significant danger that a Child Sexual Abuse Industry is very much in operation within Australia and that there needs to be a critical appraisal of whether the momentum has swung too far. The paper will seek to address such issues that may arise involving the trial of persons charged with Sexual Assault. This material will hopefully be of assistance in gaining a greater understanding of human memory and the way in which these types of cases can arise and are investigated.
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R v Crawford (Unreported) Flannery DCJ 1 November 2018

R v Crawford (unrep) Flannery DCJ 1 November 2018 – permanent stay of indictment In R v Hakim [1981] 41 A Crim R 372 Lee J said “it would be out of accord with common humanity” to allow the trial to proceed.

In this case, Greg Walsh appeared for Vincent Crawford, who is 86 years of age. He had severe dementia and was in a “vegetative state, barley rousable, he has no capacity to communicate or alternatively, if he does, to communicate in a rational sense.”

He was completely dependent on nursing care for mobility and is verbally and physically disruptive, aggressive and prone to violent outbursts.

The Prosecution proposed that notwithstanding Mr Crawford’s condition as expressed by Dr Roberts, Forensic Psychiatrist, that he could be brought to Court and the special trial could proceed. This was not withstanding the evidence of the Director of the Nursing Home that he would require a fully body lifting machine and three staff and he would be very confused in the Court environment and prone to aggressive and disruptive outbursts.

The alleged offences were committed between 30-35 years ago. The Complainant first complained to Police on 29 December 2014 and though a statement was taken from him, no further active investigation was undertaken until Detective Tyrell spoke to him on 6 October 2015.

The Accused was arrested and charged on 22 April 2016 despite the fact he had severe dementia and could not answer any charges or defend himself in any way.

If the Accused had been spoken to shortly after 29 December 2014, he would have some capacity to answer the charges and defend himself. However, on 18 September 2015, he suffered a major stroke which led him to develop severe dementia. A critical witness was not interviewed.

Detective Tyrell was cross-examined by Greg Walsh and in cross-examination, agreed that though an important witness, Sister Elizabeth was alive, she was not spoken to. The reason for this was that the Complainant had indicated to the Detective that he didn’t want any statement taken from her. The Detective made no enquiries as to the whereabouts of Sister Elizabeth either via the RTA System or a search of the Police System.

The Applicant for a Permanent Stay of the hearing was heard by Her Honour Judge Flannery of the District Court. Greg Walsh did not simply rely upon the 30-35 years delay, but a number of overlapping features including the prejudice which also occurred in the context of the Accused’s medical condition. See McDonald v R [2016] VSCA 304.

Flannery DCJ referred to the decisions of Jago v District Court [1989] 87 ALR 577, Subramaniam v R [2004] 211 ALR 1, R v Zvonaric [2001] NSWCCA 505.

Greg Walsh argued that Zvonaric required an accused to be present for his arraignment and that it was not adequate that this could be done by the Evidence (Audio and Audio Visual Links) Act as contended by the Crown.

In Zvonaric, Justice Adams, with whom Spigelman CJ and Sully J agreed, emphasised that a special hearing required strict compliance with procedure, including that the Accused be present for his arraignment.

Flannery DCJ referred to s.21 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act which provides “except as provided by this Act, a special hearing is to be conducted as nearly as possible as if it were a trial of criminal proceedings.”  Her Honour held that she was satisfied that the Accused should be present, not just for the arraignment, but the whole of the special hearing unless he has waived his right to be present.

A feature that Her Honour also considered was that of prejudice being one of much significance because of the major stroke suffered by the Accused in combination with the failure of investigating Police to properly investigate the allegations against the Accused. The outcome of the special hearing was also a matter to be considered. Her Honour also referred to the observations of Adams J in Littler [2001] NSWCCA 173.

The special hearing was permanently stayed.

AB v Judaical Commission of NSW (Conduct Division) 2018 NSWCA 264

AB v Judaical Commission of NSW (Conduct Division) 2018 NSWCA 264 AB, a Local Court Magistrate, was the subject of complaint to the Judicial Commission of NSW and in turn referred to the Conduct Division. Pursuant to s.24(l) of the Judicial Officers Act the Conduct Division “May hold hearings in connection with the complaint”. On 8 June 2018 the Conduct Division directed that a hearing be held and affixed the dates for the hearing. Pursuant to s.24(2) the Conduct Division may determine that a hearing “be held in public or in private”.  On 8 October 2018 the Conduct Division determined that the hearing should be held in public. AB appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal from the decision of the Conduct Division. The Court, comprised of Basten JA; Meagher JA and Gleeson JA, dismissed the summons seeking judicial review of the decision of the Conduct Division to hold a hearing in public. 1 Eleven grounds of review were relied upon by AB. It was argued that the Conduct Division “plainly fell into error by wrongly construing s. 24(2)” and in so doing “failed to consider the purpose of the text of s.24(2) in its proper context within the operation of the Judicial Officers Act”. The Court held that grounds 1 and 5 were without substance and that the Conduct Division dealt with the power to determine whether a hearing be held in public or private properly. Grounds 2 and 3 were also rejected and the Court found that the Conduct Division did not conclude that it had made a constraining order at some point which had no power to undo the order: it was patently more concerned about the effect of failing to make such an order, which was the course that took over the objection in the applicant.2 Ground 4 alleged that the Conduct Division “incorrectly applied the principles of ‘open justice’ to an administrative rather than judicial context”. The Court observed that an incorrect application of a legal principle does not necessarily involve jurisdictional error. Further, that giving ‘too much weight’ to a permissible consideration does not usually indicate jurisdictional error. Their Honours referred to the observations of Spigelman CJ in Bruce v Cole3  that the role of the Conduct Division was to provide a procedural strength, reinforced in the principle of judicial independence, in the system for maintaining the integrity of the judiciary pursuant to which “from the passage of the act of settlement (1700) Eng” it has been accepted that judicial officers cannot be removed except by exceptional measures involving action by both the executive and the legislature.4 The Court also rejected Ground 6 of ‘public interest’. The Court at [54] observed “the term ‘Public interest’ has no precise meaning. It is protean and will take its possible meanings from the context in which it is used. In fact each of the six criteria set out in the Guideline involves an element of the ‘public interest’”. Grounds 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were also rejected. 1 See AB v Judicial Commission of NSW (Conduct Division) [2018] NSWCA 264.        2 Para [35] 3 (1998) 45 NSWLR 163 At [166]-[177] 4 Bruce v Cole (1998) 45 NSWLR 163 At [166f]

Regina v XY

XY is a married woman who tragically had been diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia for many years. She is married to a loving and caring husband. The have one child who is an adult and a successful professional person. XY was originally diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1990’s. She was admitted to a hospital for a lengthy period of time and treated after her discharge with anti-psychotic medication. She continued taking medication from the early 1990’s until about 2015.

As she had been complying with her medication for so many years she decided most regrettably to cease taking her medication. She thought that she could function well without her medication. In the latter part of 2016 and in 2017 her condition commenced to deteriorate. She became disorientated and had irrational beliefs that people were trying to hurt her. She became obsessed with paranoid beliefs of being poisoned. Whatever she viewed on television to her was reality.

XY’s Husband and their Daughter were concerned about her behaviour and encouraged her to go and see her General Practitioner. Her local Doctor had been treating her for many years and recently retired and the Husband and Daughter thought that XY had returned to see her General Practitioner to be prescribed appropriate medication.

On the day of the incident XY had a delusional belief that her husband had been in some way sexually abusing their daughter. This was a delusional belief as no such history had occurred. XY in a psychotic episode accused her Husband of sexually abusing their Daughter and attacked him with a knife attempting to sever his penis. As a result he was seriously injured.

Neighbours intervened and Police were called and XY was arrested and taken to a psychiatric hospital where she remained for some months.

Greg Walsh was asked to help XY and he did so. She apart from her psychiatric illness had been an extremely devoted Wife and Mother and had worked very hard over many years to help her Husband but over recent times was suffering from a serious illness. She otherwise had a very loving and caring relationship with her Husband. There were concerns about bail and in particular Police insisted that XY had no contact with her Husband. This was problematic because they had otherwise, such a close and loving relationship. However, the incident concerned was an extremely serious one and she had been charged with very serious offences, including wounding with intent.

The psychiatric hospital concerned provided wonderful treatment and support to XY and there was established a community treatment program. Appropriate accommodation was organised for XY and a community nurse initially saw her on a frequent basis and she attended also readily upon her treating psychiatrist and a psychologist and general practitioner. She maintained strict compliance with her medication and accepted that she should never have stopped taking her medication and that this was the triggering problem for her predicament.

An application to vary her bail was heard at the Downing Centre Local Court before Magistrate Atkinson. Police opposed any contact between XY and her Husband. The Husband had attended Court and whilst in Court they instinctively embraced and could not be separated. The bail conditions were varied so as to permit XY to have supervised contact with her Husband and the supervisor was her Daughter.

The Defence of mental illness was raised and the matter went to Trial. Greg Walsh appeared for XY at Trial and she was examined by a Forensic Psychiatrist on behalf of the Prosecution and also Dr Olav Nielssen, who gave evidence for her. The diagnosis of schizophrenia was agreed upon and that the schizophrenia was the cause of her conduct in attacking her Husband. XY was found not guilty on the grounds of mental illness by Acting Judge Graham of the District Court and a number of orders were made requiring her to accept appropriate treatment and to comply with supervision in the community.

XY has continued to strictly adhere to her treatment regime and is now living back with her Husband whom she is providing support to.

Jury acquits Brother David Curtin on historical sex charges

Goulburn Post – A solicitor has strongly criticised a police investigation after a retired Christian Brother was acquitted of historical sexual/indecent assault this week. 

Brother David Michael Curtin, 67, of Mulgoa, was found not guilty by a jury in Downing Centre District Court.

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AB v Law Society of NSW [2018] NSWSC1975 Davies J

In this matter Greg Walsh acted for AB in a very important case against the Law Society of NSW.

AB at the time of instructing Mr Walsh was a Solicitor with Firm 1. Her supervising partner was CD. That supervising partner on 3 March 2016 requested that she pop in and see her and when AB did so a piece of paper was handed to AB consisting firstly of CD’s signature and that of EF, CD’s former partner and the father of a child XY. AB witnessed CD’s signature as a person over the age of 18 years and not related to CD. She neither witnessed it as a Solicitor or in her capacity as a Solicitor. CD then asked her can you witness EF’s signature as well. She did so. AB said to CD “Has EF been in to sign this?” CD said “Yes I met him this morning”. AB had no reason not to believe what her supervising partner told her and signed the documents.

The next day AB overheard a phone call made by CD with a person likely to have been EF. As a result of the matters that she heard in the call CD said to AB that he had received a call from the Passport Office about the Passport Application. AB became suspicious at that point that EF may not have signed the application because CD had said to EF on the phone that she was taking XY to New York.

Davies J set out in his judgement at paras [9-14] further evidence in respect of the circumstances of the execution of the Passport Application and the results of investigation conducted as to what had occurred in such circumstances.

On 1 September 2016 AB contacted the Law Society and was referred to the Senior Solicitors Scheme and thus represented by Greg Walsh. Mr Walsh obtained instructions from AB and on 17 November 2016 sent a letter to the Law Society making full disclosure of the matters on behalf of AB.

Davies J thereafter sets out in some detail the extensive exchange of correspondence between Greg Walsh and the Law Society. Greg Walsh asserted that the Law Society had not afforded procedural fairness to his client and had not disclosed documentation consisting of two statutory declarations of CD to the Law Society. Mr Walsh on behalf of AB asserted that the full statutory declaration provided to the Law Society by CD be provided to him on behalf of AB. Justice Davies refers to Mr Walsh’s assertions in his judgement at paras [21-23]. On 6 July 2018 Ms Foord on behalf of the Law Society replied to Mr Walsh stating “You have been provided with everything that is relevant to the Society ‘s investigation of the complaint about AB. Those parts of CD ‘s statutory declaration that do not relate to your client or to the complaint about her will not be provided to you”.

At para [24] Justice Davies made this finding “In fact, the Law Society’s statement in that letter was untrue. Not only did the Law Society have the statutory declaration of CD from which it had quoted, but it had another statutory declaration, made at an earlier time, with answers to questions which had been asked of CD by the Law Society. That only became clear when Mr Walsh saw the report from the Bar Association mentioned earlier. That statutory declaration was not made available until a subpoena and a notice to produce was issued to the Law Society shortly before the present hearing. The other statutory declaration has never been made available to the plaintiff”.

Justice Davies set out in his judgement at [25-26] the result of the investigation made by The NSW Bar Association to grant AB a Practising Certificate as a Barrister. Mr Walsh on her behalf had made full disclosure about the complaint to the Law Society. The Bar Association had been abled by way of notice issued to the Law Society to obtain the relevant statutory declaration.

At [27] His Honour notes that on 12 September 2017 Mr Walsh wrote to the Law Society indicating that he had now learnt that there were in fact two Statutory Declarations. The First Statutory Declaration of CD contained significant admissions which are directly relevant to the allegations of Professional Misconduct against AB. At [28] the Law Society did not reply. Greg Walsh wrote again on 16 October 2017. In that letter he asserted “…[l]t is submitted that the decision to conceal from AB and myself as her solicitor the contents of the First Statutory Declaration of CD provided to the Law Society on 21 April 2017 is utterly contrary to the obligations of procedural fairness/natural justice. …”.

Ms Foord on behalf of the Law Society responded in a letter of 24 October 2017 again asserting that everything relevant had been provided to Mr Walsh on behalf of AB.

At [30] Justice Davies made this finding “It was again not true that all relevant material had been provided to AB. The Law Society had still not made available the statutory declaration from CD in its possession. The letter of 20 June 2017 which first disclosed the existence of a statutory declaration by CD did not mention the date of that statutory declaration. It could not, therefore, be inferred from the references in the letter of 24 October 2017 that what was being spoken of was a second statutory declaration by CD”.

On 1 February 2018 the Law Society resolved to refer that AB to the Administrative Tribunal

Occupational Division on the basis that she had falsely witnessed the signature of EF on a

Passport Application of about 3 March 2016. It provided reasons for its decision which were then set out by His Honour at [40].

Throughout the ordeal suffered by AB, Mr Walsh had obtained reports from her treating psychiatrist Dr David Sturrock. These set out the tragic circumstances in which she suffered from a major depressive illness: shock, depressed mood, nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, tearfulness, nausea, dry mouth and poor concentration and suicidal ideation. The response by the Law Society to such overwhelming evidence was simply to assert that it in no way was responsible having regard to its conduct in delaying the investigation and concealing evidence that was clearly relevant to the allegations made against AB. Tragically, AB attempted to take her own life on three separate occasions.

Justice Davies ultimately held for the reasons set out in his judgement that the Law Society had failed to accord procedural fairness to her and further had failed to provide adequate reasons in both the decisions of 14 December 2017 and I February 2018 meaning the decisions could not stand. His Honour further found that the reasons for the decision of I February 2018 disclosed jurisdictional error.

The Law Society then despite His Honour reserving his decision resolved to commence proceedings in the tribunal and did so on 1 August 2018. His Honour made an order in the nature of certiorari quashing the decisions of the Law Society made on 14 December 2017 and 1 February 2018.

This judgement of Justice Davies is a fundamental one in respect of the proper manner in which the Law Society of NSW ought to have investigated the allegations of Professional Misconduct against AB. She, somewhat remarkably, is still alive to continue assisting the community as a member of the NSW Bar Association.