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Courtroom 4.8

Those who appear before our courts come from all walks of life.

The third episode of Court Justice Sydney took a look at the trials and tribulations of a group of Christian protesters, two young men in a stolen car, and a man whose drug addiction has led to a downward spiral.

First up in front of Judge Henson were five Christian protesters arrested in front of Malcolm Turnbull’s office, where they were demonstrating against Australia’s treatment of refugees.

The police ‘fact sheet’ outlined that although their protest was peaceful and respectful, their crime was refusing to leave. It was the first offence for four of the group, and the third for one of them.

After hearing the reasons for the demonstration – which was Australia’s treatment of refugees, and detained children in particular – Judge Henson reminded the group that protesting is not a right in Australia, but a privilege, and that those who break the law put themselves at the mercy of the courts.

All five members of the group pleaded guilty. Taking all factors into account, His Honour exercised his discretion under section 10 dismissal or conditional release order of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 not to record a criminal conviction against their names.

In another courtroom, Jake Mann and Stuart Moat faced charges relating to driving a stolen car.

The two men were visiting Sydney from Melbourne, when they were detected in a stolen vehicle. During the ensuing search, police found a balaclava, gloves and a cash register till in the boot of the car. They also found $400 in cash on the men.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges, informing the court that they were in Sydney to make a video clip and didn’t know the car was stolen.

After hearing the evidence, the NSW magistrate found the men guilty of being in a stolen conveyance.

In the third case, Jake Henderson, a habitual drug user, faced court for what he said was possibly the twentieth time.

He represented himself before magistrate Keogh, accused of possessing house-breaking implements, after police arrested him in the early hours of the morning during a routine patrol through an industrial estate.

Jake pleaded not guilty, contending that he never intended to do anything unlawful and informing police that the tools in his possession – including a socket set, a pair of pliers and a driver – were used for an ‘Airtasker’ job earlier that day.

The magistrate explained that it was unnecessary for police to prove that Jake broke into a property or even intended to break into a property – it was enough for them to establish that the tools could be used to do so. Under the relevant section of the law, the onus then shifts to the defendant who must prove on the balance of probabilities that the items were possessed for a lawful purpose.

Jake nervously took the stand and began to give his version of the events. But in doing so, he naïvely disclosed to the court that he purchased drugs earlier that day.

The magistrate, concerned that Jake was incriminating himself for a charge of drug possession, stopped the proceedings in order for Jack to obtain legal advice. When the case resumed, Jake requested a certificate under section 128 of the Evidence Act in order to protect against being prosecuted as a result of his admission.

The application was granted without opposition, and Jake proceeded to testify that he was at the location to buy drugs. However, he was unable to discharge his onus of proving that he the tools were in his possession for a lawful purpose.

This was because police had confiscated Jake’s phone which allegedly contained evidence of the Airtasker job, and Jake did not request access to the phone or its contents in the lead-up to the hearing.

Unable to discharge his onus, Jake was found guilty and received an 18 month good behaviour bond.

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