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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 19. 2nd August 1973

From the Courts

page 2

From the Courts

Photo of Magistrate's Courts

An 18-year-old steel worker pleaded guilty to a charge of assault and also possession of an offensive weapon in the magistrate's court last Friday before Mr Scully SM.

Police evidence stated that the youth and two associates had been walking down a city street with a crowd of other youths when they had chanced on two Wellington City Council workmen. The defendant had joined his companions in hurling both rocks and abuse at the workmen, the incident finally developing into a brawl. While one of the workmen was on the ground the defendant had struck him with a belt, prosecution stated. The police prsecutor assumed a deliberately mocking tone of voice when he quoted the defendant as having said to policemen immediately after the incident "He pushed me first and I don't like being pushed around."

When Mr Scully asked the defendant if he had anything to say the young worker began to challenge the police evidence. 'There were only two of us involved, not a crowd, and we didn't throw rocks......" "Did you hit him with a belt?" Scully interrupted. The defendant replied that he had, wherepon Scully immediately fined him $100 on each charge.

Several important questions arise from this case. The defendant's statement from the dock was contrary to police evidence, and bore directly on an aspect of the nature of the assault. Yet Mr Scully refused to consider this piece of evidence from the defendant, dismissing it with his question about an entirely different aspect of the assault. The actual origin of the assault was never considered from the defendant's point of view, in spite of the fact that he had actually claimed when arrested that the complainants had instigated the violence, by pushing him.

This case can be briefly summarised as a typical failure of the court to examine thoroughly the evidence offered by a defendant in the case of a guilty plea. If it is good enough for an 18-year-old worker to pay $200 to the Justice Department then it is good enough for his case to be considered properly.

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Often a stranger of the Wellington Magistrate's Court could be excused for thinking that he had walked into a mid morning stag party. A recent example of this possibility occured when a young housemaid appeared before Mr Scully SM on a charge of stealing $25 from a seaman.

According to prosecution evidence the defendant had become friendly with the seaman and passed an enjoyable evening with him at a hotel bar. The defendant allegedly took the $25 from the complainant when they swapped coats ".....as part of the fun."

"Did you say after the fun?" interrupted Scully, beaming around the court room in delight at his own joke. Prosecution smiled obligingly and continued to state that the money had been hidden by the woman in her pantyhose. Counsel for the defense stated that the couple had been drinking and that the seaman had loaned the defendant his fur coat to keep her warm, as it was cold night.

"And she put the money down her pantyhose to add to her warmth!" chortled Scully. He was still sniggering as he fined the woman $100 and costs.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

A student teacher pleaded guilty before Mr Scully SM in the magistrate's court last Friday on a charge of using obscene language. The police prosecutor stated that the defendant had been one of a number of demonstrators outside the Majestic Cabaret on July 4, protesting American bombing in Cambodia. The student had been warned about his language but had gone on to abuse a detective, stating at the time of his arrest that the remarks he made were true. The student's lawyer pointed out the excellent record of his client in community affairs and the fact that the defendant was customarily polite and well mannered. He had uncharacteristically lost his temper in the heated atmosphere which had prevailed at the time. The student was fined $30 and costs.

A few minutes afterwards another man appeared on a charge of using obscene language when approached by a policeman in a city hotel. The man was not represented by council and had nothing to say in his defence. Mr Scully thought fit to fine this defendant $30 and costs also.

As a young lawyer once said to me with surprise and annoyance "Half the time it doesn't seem to matter whether a person is defended or not. They seem to have the punishments worked out beforehand and take no account of the evidence."

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

by Janet Oakley

'Dad's Army' fans were identified this week in the magistrate's court.

Patrick Andrew McMally, 29, a former professional boxer, who according to the defence, had fought out of his class pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing a firearm.

He was apparently waving an unloaded 45 calibre pistol in the private bar of the Panama Hotel. When the police arrived he put the gun in his trousers, rushed into the woman's toilet and put it on top of the towel dispenser. He had previously been convicted of having a pistol at the age of 16.

The defense said that the owner of the pistol wished to sell it and handed it around the bar. McMally was apparently last in line, "like the incident in 'Dad's Army' last Sunday." Mr Scully obviously appreciated the analogy and fined McMally $75.

The best defence these days seems to be that you were so drunk that you didn't know what you were doing.

The defendant, a painter, went to the pub because it was raining and from 2pm to 10pm he drank the best part of three bottles of whiskey.

At closing time he started throwing pool balls at the windows and door. He also smashed a wall panel valued at $280.

When the police arrived he threw punches at one of them, broke his watch strap and tore his coat. The hotel manager and two of his friends said that he was so drunk he didn't know what he was doing. But the police said that he was standing steadily and talking quite well.

In this case the magistrate believed the manager and the defendant's friends in preference to the police and held that although the defendant had commited the offence he was incapable of forming intent because of intoxication and the charges were dismissed.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Patrick McGinty, a middle aged unemployed man was charged with being drunk in a public place. When asked by the magistrate whether he had anything to say McGinty said "I wasn't very drunk."

Mr Scully replied, "There is nothing much to say then, is there, if you were drunk." McGinty was convicted and discharged.

Most defendants charged with being drunk and disorderly are convicted and discharged and there seems little point in bringing the charges as they haven't harmed anyone and the conviction would probably not prevent them from becoming drunk again.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Another case where it was difficult to see why the police had brought a prosecution was Kathy Keegan's. She had been drinking and reached onto the tray of a truck, took a pickaxe and walked on. She threw it away before the police approached her. The fine was $25.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

A technical offence that the police are fond of using at the moment is being 'found without lawful excuse on a property but in circumstances that did not disclose the intention to commit any other offence'. It was used on one occassion this week to charge an old alcoholic who had got drunk and couldn't go to the night shelter so he spent the night in a deserted building. Mr Scully said, "Look you behave yourself and stay at the night shelter or else I'll give you shelter and it won't be for one night." He was convicted and discharged.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Two Maori men, although both dressed as women, were also prosecuted for this offence. When asked if they had anything to say, one of them said that they were walking along the street when one of them wanted to go to the toilet, so they went into a yard in Abel Smith Street.

Mr Scully said, "Did you think you could go there?" The reply was, "It was better than going in the street." They were fined $50 each.