At hearings in Sydney and Canberra today, the High Court granted special leave to four new cases (in contrast to six new cases at each its previous two sessions.) Two of the cases – both particularly interesting ones, in my view – are appeals from the Northern Territory Supreme Court. It’s been over three-and-a-half years since the High Court last granted leave to a Northern Territory case. The Court typically averages a little under one case a year from that jurisdiction.
The four special leave grants are for appeals from the following decisions:
- DPP v Moseley  NTSC 8 examines what options are available to the courts when a defendant’s successful appeal against a conviction was allegedly obtained by fraud. The defendant was initially convicted of being one of two masked people who robbed a KFC in a Darwin suburb, but successfully appealed after a Darwin prisoner swore an affidavit that he had committed the robbery with another man. Six weeks after the Court of Criminal Appeal authenticated an order for a new trial, the prisoner recanted, saying that he had falsely confessed after the defendant promised him a share of his expected compensation. The Court of Appeal held that, if the defendant’s fraud is established, the Supreme Court both can and should quash the appeal order, rather than proceed with a retrial.
- Emmerson v The Director of Public Prosecutions & Ors  NTCA 4 is a challenge to the effect and validity of Northern Territory laws that provide all of the property of people declared to be ‘drug traffickers’ by the Supreme Court is forfeited to the Crown. The appellant, an addict whose multiple convictions for possessing drugs meant that the Court must declare him to be a drug trafficker under the law, had a restraining order placed over property valued at over $850,000, even though all but $70,000 was accepted to be legitimately acquired and had no connection whatsoever to his drug use. The Court held that the laws applied to all of the appellant’s property and did not infringe a federal ban on acquisition of property on unjust terms, but a majority held that the legislation was invalid for undermining the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.
- Goudappel v ADCO Constructions Pty Ltd  NSWCA 94 concerns transitional arrangements for amendments to NSW’s workers compensation laws. The NSW Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by the Workers Compensation Commission that 2012 amendments limiting lump sum payments did not apply on their terms to existing claims and also held that the claimant had accrued rights to lump sum compensation that could not be validly taken away by subsequently enacted regulations that purported to alter these transitional arrangements.
- Thiess v Collector of Customs & Ors  QCA 54 involves the effect and validity of statutory time limits on claims to recover overpaid customs duty and GST. The appellant, a Queensland businessman, paid over half a million dollars in customs duty (and GST on that duty) after importing a yacht. Two years later, he discovered that his broker had misclassified the yacht on a customs form and that, but for that error, no duty was payable. The Court of Appeal held that the federal authorities were entitled to reject the appellant’s claims for a refund of the duty and relevant GST because the claims were made after the statutory time limits had expired and those limits were not invalid under the Constitution’s requirement for just terms for any deprivation of property.