An egregious Local Court conviction and term of imprisonment against our client has been overturned in the District Court of NSW on appeal.
It’s a case that exposes something that is rarely spoken about, but all too prevalent, in the Criminal Justice System.
Our client, a middle-aged Sudanese-Australian male who had been out drinking with friends, was accused of assaulting a complainant with his hammer following a heated argument outside their house.
The Police facts alleged a scene out of a Quintin Tarantino film: a one-sided bludgeoning by an incensed assailant who prefaced the attack by threatening “tonight I want to kill you”.
What was their evidence? An astoundingly short victim statement, a witness statement which said she saw the accused holding the hammer after the fact, photos of the premises, photos of the complainant’s bloodied face and finally, the smoking gun, or in this case, a bloody hammer.
However, the truth was far from this. But how would this play out in court? Was it truly enough to find a man guilty?
Convicted On Questionable Evidence And Testimony
In the Local Court of NSW, the Magistrate refused to accept our client’s testimony that the blood on the hammer was his, concluding that it was the complainant’s. However, no DNA analysis was ever conducted on the blood, and to this day it is not known whose blood it was.
The court also found that the complainant’s injuries were consistent with hammer strikes, despite no medical records of their injuries existing. In fact, the attending police officer stated that the complainant refused an ambulance on the night when one was called for him despite the complainant’s sworn testimony that he left in an ambulance.
Moreover, the complainant’s account in testimony, directly contradicted his police statement and added whole new portions to the event, now involving knives and other chronological addons.
Despite the contradictory nature of the complainant, the court accepted their account beyond a reasonable doubt due to the “adamant nature” of their testimony. The result was a 17-month prison sentence with a nine-month non-parole period imposed on our client for a crime he was sure he did commit.
Another example of injustice where although, strictly speaking, it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt someone did something, it was likely they did not.
Doing The Time, But Not The Crime
On appeal in the District Court of NSW, the Magistrate’s decision was deemed an erroneous conclusion by the District Court Judge. The accounts of the complainant were deemed far too contradictory and offered no saliant account of the incident – or even where he was supposedly struck.
The evidence of our client’s injury was more than enough to raise doubt about the blood on the hammer and in the absence of clear and concise testimony of the complainant, it was found there was ample doubt, and the convictions were set aside.
Is this justice?
By this point our client had already served nine months in prison. He does not get those months lost credited to his life. He is not afforded an easing of the trauma sustained. He does not get those wages he would’ve otherwise have earnt paid to him.
He did the time and not the crime.