News: High Court agrees to hear six new cases

In hearings in Melbourne and Sydney today, the High Court agreed to hear six new cases. The six cases are appeals from the following judgments:

  • Barbaro v The Queen; Zirilli v The Queen [2012] VSCA 288, where the Victorian Court of Appeal rejected a sentencing appeal by two drug traffickers who were involved in the importation of over 15 million ecstasy tablets hidden inside tins of tomatoes. The defendants’ main complaint was that the sentencing judge, King J, refused to take account of submissions on sentencing range by the prosecutor and ended up imposing sentences that were higher than the range the prosecutor would have proposed. Applying a landmark ruling by the same Court from 2008, which held that the prosecutor should make such submissions if the sentencing judge asks for them, the Court of Appeal ruled that Justice King was not obliged to receive such submissions and that the sentences her Honour issued were not manifestly excessive. (The Court did not grant special leave in this case, but rather referred it to a bench of five or seven judges. In practice, it will be argued as an appeal.)
  • James v The Queen [2013] VSCA 55, where the Victorian Court of Appeal rejected a man’s appeal against his conviction for intentionally causing serious injury to a man in the carpark of Melbourne’s Highpoint Shopping Centre, after a bystander testified that he deliberately drove his car into the victim. The Court of Appeal split on whether less incriminating accounts initially given to the police by both the victim and the defendant meant that a lesser charge of intentionally causing injury should have been left to the jury and that the jury should not have been invited to treat the defendant’s story as evidence of his consciousness of guilt.
  • Li v Chief of Army [2013] FCAFC 20, where the Federal Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by a defence lawyer in the Australian Defence Force against a conviction for the disciplinary offence of ‘creat[ing] a disturbance’ during a heated exchange with a defence financial claims officer in the latter’s office. The Court unanimously held that such a confrontation could amount to an offence, even when (as the defendant claimed) it was a response to an alleged racial slur. However, only a narrow majority accepted that the Judge Advocate at the defendant’s Court Martial was correct in stating that the offence does not require proof that the accused ‘intended to create a disturbance’.
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About Jeremy Gans

Jeremy Gans is a Professor in Melbourne Law School, where he researches and teaches across all aspects of the criminal justice system. He holds higher degrees in both law and criminology. In 2007, he was appointed as the Human Rights Adviser to the Victorian Parliament's Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee.