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City Desk
20 April, 2010  
The map of Tasmania

New silks for Van Diemen’s land … Champers all around … Madge towelled by Chief Justice … How to scare kiddies into being nice to the wildlife

imageThe rustle of fresh silk can heard from one end of the Apple Isle to the other.

There are two new Tasmanian SCs: Tamara Jago from the Burnie branch of the Tasmanian Legal Aid Commission and Andrew James Abbott from Malthouse Chambers in Hobart.

I hope Abbo’s appointment is not overshadowed by the fact that Jago has the distinction of being the first Tasmanian woman to take silk.

Abbo is well known to readers of this organ.

Most people recognised he was on the pathway to silk ever since his magnificently crafted letter dated July 4, 2002 to the president of The Tasmanian Club came to light.

His missive complained about the heaviness of the rim of club wine glasses and the imposition of a “defamatory” corkage fee.

It’s a tour de force and the full text can be reprised HERE.

Abbo was delighted at this well-overdue elevation to silk and shouted champers for the chambers.

Actually, there are whisperings around Malthouse concerning the provenance of this champagne.

At the most recent chambers Christmas dinner held at a smart Hobart Chinoiserie the sommelier attending to the thirsty briefs himself got shickered and had to be withdrawn from service.

This was the same do at which Abbott passed on some private thoughts to Tom Cox about his father who, as Chief Justice, failed to recognise that AJA was silk material.

The restaurant later sent a magnum of Moet to chambers with a note apologising for any distress caused by the wine waiter.

There must have been a mix-up because some members of chambers thought Abbo assumed the bottle was for him.

When celebrating his appointment niggardly Malthousians mused that this was actually their bubbly they were imbibing.

However, recriminations about the missing magnum were soon forgotten as everyone was as pleased as punch that Abbott’s proposed Recognised Specialist Counsel Protocol might now be ditched.

The protocol was a plan to limit the intake of silks to those who had a first class hons degree in law (a proud attainment of Abbo himself).

The idea was that the rule would keep the silk gown out of reach of dummies. It had already been voted down once by members of the Tassie bar ‘n’ grill.

* * *

imageA marron is a chestnut used in cooking, or preserved in syrup.

It’s also the name of a Tasmanian magistrate – Reg Marron.

In a scarifying judgment Tasmanian Chief Justice Ewan Crawford (seen here) threw away the syrup and preserved this chestnut in vinegar.

Crawford found Marron had erred no fewer than 12 times in handling a recent speeding case in Launceston.

The Chestnut had conducted the case without due process, rather it was more in the nature of an inquisition and not in accordance with the madge’s duty.

“The applicant should not have been treated in the way she was,” said the chief.

He set aside the finding of guilt, the conviction and $350 penalty.

There has to be another hearing before a fresh magistrate “according to law”.

Madge Marron “demonstrated an ignorance of usual process in speeding cases”.

Eleonore Wells was charged with driving at 65 kph in a 50 kph zone. She appeared for herself and pleaded not guilty.

The Chestnut opened the proceedings with a question to Wells:

“The issue is speed is it, what do you say you were doing?

Wells: Not guilty … not speeding.

Madge: What do you say you were doing?

Wells: I would have been in the range of 50 perhaps a little more than 50.

Madge: Don’t guess.

Wells: 50.

The prosecutor had not been invited to present the prosecution case. There was no evidence that any vehicle had been driven anywhere.

On the face of the transcript it appears that Wells’ intention was to raise an argument about the reliability of the speed detection device.

She was entitled to cross-examine the speed camera operator, but that did not happen.

The operator was in court and the Chestnut read some of his proof of evidence, but did not show it to Wells.

He announced that this witness did not need to give evidence and so he departed.

imageMarron (pic) said that the prosecution had pointed to a presumption that the owner of the vehicle was the driver at the time of the alleged offence.

The prosecutor had not pointed to any such presumption.

The magistrate said that unless Wells gave evidence he would find the matter proven.

This was incorrect because there was still no evidence before the court on which he could have found the charge proven.

In fact, there was no evidence at all, at least not in any admissible form.

When Wells did get into the box and took the oath the magistrate proceeded to cross-examine her.

After a while she said, “I’m sorry for being so rambling”.

Madge: “No, no. I’ve just got to run these things in a proper way.”

Here are the multiple errings perpetrated by the Chestnut:

* He found the charge proved without any admissible evidence to support the finding.

* He took regard to the proof of evidence of the camera operator without his evidence being given.

* He should not have told this witness he could leave the court and not have to give evidence.

* He told Wells that because she said she was not the driver and not at the scene, she was not in a position to test the evidence of the speed detection operator. In fact, she was perfectly entitled to challenge the evidence.

* Wells was not given an opportunity to see or challenge the evidence of the civilian speed camera operator.

* He incorrectly told Wells that the charge would be found proved unless she gave evidence. He said this in circumstances where there was no admissible evidence to support a finding that the charge had been proved.

* He erroneously stated that there was no problem with the operator or the speed detection machinery or the circumstances in which the reading was taken. He also incorrectly said that he had made a “proper inquiry” about those matters.

* He erred in questioning Wells at the bar table concerning the speed she claimed she was doing and the other ingredients of the alleged offence.

* He should not have cross-examined the applicant and he failed to allow her an opportunity to give evidence-in-chief in her own way.

* He failed to require the prosecutor to present the case against Wells.

* He failed to explain the proper and correct procedure to the applicant and to give her a reasonable opportunity to present her defence in her own way.

Being Tasmania, the chief justices’s elder brother Bruce appeared for the applicant.

Reg Marron is a son of Van Diemenia, but then went to Victoria where he first took up magisterial duties.

Bam Bam Bartlett landed him a job on the bench in Launceston, which got up the nose of other local contenders.

The beauty of being on the bench is you can be ticked off for hopelessness, but still keep your job.

* * *

imageTasmanian wildlife is rare and wonderful and in special instances has been slaughtered to extinction.

This is why parks and wildlife authorities are taking a more hands on approach.

A loyal subscriber kindly photographed this sign near Beauty Point in northern Tassie and passed it on to Justinian’s news desk.

If only more of us had spoken to our children …


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