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Debacle after Bruce Lehrmann charges dropped

Bruce Lehrmann, the former parliamentary political staffer who was accused of raping a colleague named Brittany Higgins at Parliament House has had all charges dropped again him.

This occurred after the trial had to be postponed because Lisa Wilkinson gave a speech at The Logie Awards, and when the trial finally took place, the jury had to be discharged because of juror misconduct.

Aftermath

It has since been revealed that the most senior police officer on the Brittany Higgins case, ACT Police Manager of Criminal Investigations, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller believed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Bruce Lehrmann but could not stop the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions from proceeding because “there is too much political interference”.

Lehrmann is reportedly contemplating civil action for alleged defamation and unfair dismissal after the charges were dropped, including against the ABC.

Sydney defamation specialist Mark O’Brien is working with Lehrmann in consideration of legal action. Furthermore, a letter to the trial judge from Channel 10 boss Beverley McGarvey, obtained by The Australian, reveals Wilkinson disputes claims by DPP Director Shane Drumgold SC that he had warned her that her planned Logies speech could cause a substantial delay in the trial.

Full story:

Sterling Law client acquitted of two counts of contravention of Protection Order


Today, after a marathon trial that ran a total of 6 days spanning over 6 months, including two dates that fell over due to a lack of interpreters and a delivery of judgment, we triumphed at our local Courthouse, the Richlands Magistrates Court.

The facts

Our client had been charged with two counts of contravention of Protection Order. It was alleged that he had driven past his ex-wife’s home on two separate dates stopping on the way to drop of the kids (count 1) and to stare (count 2).

It was noncontroversial that our client had had a temporary protection order that prohibited him from approaching within 100m of his ex-wife’s home and that he was in Court when that Order was made. The central issue for each count was whether he contravened the Protection Order as alleged.

For Count 1, the only material witness was the complainant, the ex-wife. For Count 2, the ex-wife and the new husband both gave evidence that our client was outside their home, and the new husband had taken a photograph of our client’s vehicle parked two doors down from her home.

We called two witnesses that were intended to provide our client with an alibi for count 2. The first said that our client was at his home on the date in question, but unexpectantly then told the Court that he was counselling our client about his grievances towards the ex-wife that day and our client had left his home at around half an hour before the count 2 was said to have occurred. Things were by that stage looking very grim for the defence. Magistrate Aaron Simpson was incredulous, and asked us whether our next witness would be similarly disastrous for our client’s case.

The second defence witness gave evidence that he was driving our client’s car that day, as his own car had broken down, and that he had driven in front of the ex-wife’s home to visit his friend two doors down. Despite being challenged, his evidence was unshaken in cross-examination.

Full story:

https://sterlinglawqld.com/client-acquitted-of-two-counts-of-contravention-of-protection-order/

Chief Justice prohibits Graeme Page KC from practicing as a barrister — Sterling Law QLD

Former barrister Graeme Page’s career may have ended today after the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland ordered an injunction restraining him from engaging in legal practice. The Legal Services Commission had brought an application in the Supreme Court just last Friday. A person from the Legal Services Commission this afternoon confirmed to…

Chief Justice prohibits Graeme Page KC from practicing as a barrister — Sterling Law QLD

Further revelations of Public Trustee of Queensland’s gouging of estates

The Public Trustee of Queensland is a public body charged with managing the finances of some of the most vulnerable members of the community, including those lacking capacity and prisoners.

The ABC has now again reported on the Public Trustee, this time in relation to its mismanagement and fee gouging of estates.

Cora Whitfort appointed the Public Trustee as executor of her estate when she made her will back in 2011.  She passed away six years later in 2017.

It took two years  and cost the estate more than $20,000 for the Public Trustee to obtain probate.

Read more: https://sterlinglawqld.com/further-revelations-of-public-trustee-of-queenslands-gouging-of-estates/

UK tribunal holds calling a man bald is sex harassment

The facts

Tony Finn was employed by beer barrel stopper maker British Bung Company as an electrician between 22 September 1997 and 25 May 2021.

In late July 2019 an altercation between Finn and Jamie King occurred. Finn alleged of that incident that:


“I was working on a machine that I had to cover awaiting specialist repair. The covers were taken off, and it was apparent that Jamie King had done this. When I spoke to him about it, he began to call me a stupid old bald cunt and threatened to ‘deck me.’ Fearful for my personal safety I retreated to the nearby office of Ady Hudson, supervisor. Jamie continued his tirade of threats and abuse at the office door.”

Later, Finn claimed he had been called a “fat bald old cunt” by King in that incident.

A further incident on 25 March 2021 occurred in which King again threatened Finn.

Because a subsequent statement by Finn was prepared on West Yorkshire Police letterhead paper, Finn was dismissed on the grounds that he had “deliberately provided a witness statement which falsely suggested on its face and by its content, that it had been made to, and taken by, West Yorkshire Police in connection with the investigation of an alleged crime”.

In dismissing Finn with immediate effect, British Bung Company wrote to him that:

“We do not accept your explanation, or that you acted in good faith, or that there was merely an oversight. You did not apologise. On the contrary, you said that you did not think that you had done anything wrong… We are satisfied that your actions amount to gross misconduct justifying your immediate dismissal. In light of your failure to apologise, and insistence that you have done nothing wrong, we are satisfied that it would be impossible to have trust and confidence in you as our employee.”

British Bung Company letter to Finn

Finn was dismissed from his employment without notice despite until March 2021 having an unblemished disciplinary record over nearly 24 years of service.

Tribunal’s decision

The Tribunal panel, headed by Employment Judge Brain, found that Mr King did call Finn a “bald cunt” and that the word “old” did not feature. The Tribunal also found that King did threaten Finn with physical violence, rejecting King’s denials:

“We can attach no significant weight to Mr King’s version of events. Having received a warning from the respondent about the July 2019 incident it is unsurprising that he gives an account in which effectively he denies the use of threatening words or behaviour towards the claimant.”

Employment Judge Brain

The Tribunal found that the reason for the dismissal was the Finn’s conduct in presenting British Bung Co with a witness statement on West Yorkshire Police headed notepaper and which gave the appearance of matters having become a police matter. The Tribunal was satisfied that the health and safety reason and the protected disclosures were not the reasons for the dismissal.

Because Finn was led to believe that no decision would be made by British Bung Co pending hearing from the West Yorkshire Police with the outcome of their enquiries, only for his employer British Bung to dismiss him only two working days later, it was held good faith was lacking in British Bung’s disciplinary hearing which was not cured on its internal appeal.

The reason why this decision made headlines was due to the Tribunal’s finding that Mr King‘s comment amounted to harassment under the Equality Act 2010 because it targeted a protected characteristic, namely his sex:

“Plainly, some words or phrases would clearly be related to a protected characteristic. Where the link is less obvious then Tribunals may need to analyse the precise words used, together with the context, in order to establish whether there is any negative association between the two.

In our judgment, there is a connection between the word “bald” on the one hand and the protected characteristic of sex on the other. Miss Churchhouse was right to submit that women as well as men may be bald. However, as all three members of the Tribunal will vouchsafe, baldness is much more prevalent in men than women. We find it to be inherently related to sex. (In contrast, we accept that baldness affects (predominantly) adult males of all ages so is inherently not a characteristic of age)…

it is much more likely that a person on the receiving end of a remark such as that made by Mr King would be male. Mr King made the remark with a view to hurting the claimant by commenting on his appearance which is often found amongst men. The Tribunal therefore determines that by referring to the claimant as a “bald cunt” on 24 July 2019 Mr King’s conduct was unwanted, it was a violation of the claimant’s dignity, it created an intimidating etc environment for him, it was done for that purpose, and it related to the claimant’s sex.”

The complaint of harassment relating to sex arising out of the incident of 24 July 2019 therefore succeeded.

The claims that Finn was unfairly dismissed upon the grounds that he made the disclosures of the incidents of July 2019 or 25 March 2021, or for the health and safety reason, failed. However, the claim that Finn was unfairly dismissed pursuant to sections 94 to 98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 succeeded because of the lack of good faith by British Bung Co in respect of the manner in which Finn was dismissed.

Full story: https://sterlinglawqld.com/uk-tribunal-holds-calling-a-man-bald-is-sex-harassment

Peter Dutton wins defamation case

On 25 February 2021 at 11.51 pm, refugee activist Shane Bazzi published a tweet on Twitter containing the words:

“Peter Dutton is a rape apologist.”

refugee activist Shane Bazzi on Twitter

This tweet contained a link to an article published online in The Guardian Newspaper on 20 June 2019. The link in that tweet showed a large photograph of Mr Dutton, the name “The Guardian” and the following words:

“Peter Dutton says women using rape and abortion claims as ploy to ge…
Home Affairs minister says ‘some people are trying it on’ in an attempt to get to Australia from refugee centres on Nauru.”

The Guardian Newspaper on 20 June 2019

The first of these lines comprised part of the headline to The Guardian article. The second constituted the whole of the first sentence in the article.

Dutton sued, and Bazzi denied the tweet was defamatory, and in the alternative also relied on the statutory defence of honest opinion  and the common law defence of fair comment.

Full story: https://sterlinglawqld.com/peter-dutton-wins-defamation-case/

Time to sue: The law of limitation periods

Limitation periods in the law impose time limits within which types of civil proceedings should ordinarily be commenced. In commercial litigation, statutes of limitations impose most of the limitation periods. In Queensland, the statute of limitations is the Limitation of Actions Act 1974.

Barring the remedy only

It is commonly thought that limitation periods prohibit a person from suing out of time, however this is inaccurate.

Limitation periods are not a mandatory prohibition on suing that bar the Court from having jurisdiction (power) to hear the claim. They instead provide a defence available for defendants when proceedings are brought out of time, which must be specifically pleaded to be upheld. Unless a plaintiff can show that an exception would overcome the limitation period hurdle, the defence, once pleaded, must defeat the parts of the claim brought out of time.

When the cause of action arises

Time starts to run for the purposes of the limitation period once the cause of action arises/accrues.

The cause of action ordinarily arises as soon as a plaintiff is entitled to sue. Usually, this means when the plaintiff has suffered actual loss, because the wrongful acts or omissions said to have caused the loss must have occurred before the loss was suffered. From that moment, the relevant limitation period starts to run.

Common limitation periods in Queensland

The Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld) imposes the following limitation periods in Queensland:

·       6 years for an action founded on simple contract or quasi-contract or on tort where the damages claimed by the plaintiff do not consist of or include damages in respect of personal injury to any person

·       6 years to enforce an award or recognisance

·       6 years for an account or a specialty

·       12 years to enforce a judgment

·       2 years to recover a penalty or forfeiture, or a sum by way of a penalty or forfeiture

·       1 year for defamation actions

·       3 years for personal injury, save for cases of a dust-related condition or child abuse

·       12 years to recover land

·       2 years for action for contribution under the Law Reform Act 1995 or 4 years after the limitation period for the principal action, whichever is the earliest.

In Brisbane City Council v Amos [2019] HCA 27, the High Court unanimously held that where a cause of action is subject to two or more limitation periods, a Defendant is entitled to plead and rely on the shorter limitation period.

In some circumstances, the limitation period will be or can be extended.

Read full article here: https://sterlinglawqld.com/the-law-of-limitation-periods

Sue Chrysanthou SC restrained from representing Christian Porter — Sterling Law QLD

Defamation specialist Sue Chrysanthou SC has been restrained by a Federal Court judge from representing former Attorney General Christian Porter in his defamation suit against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and its star reporter Louise Milligan. This is a blow for Porter, who had engaged Sue Chrysanthou SC after the ABC aired allegations that he…

Sue Chrysanthou SC restrained from representing Christian Porter — Sterling Law QLD
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