Bill Thompson at Melbourne Magistrates' Court this morning for Wayel MANA alleged crime wave hearing

Michael,

 

WOFTAM alert! Last night I saw this report on 7 News:

 

This morning I decided to go to the Magistrates’ Court to see whether Wayel Mana would be granted bail, despite his array of alleged offences. I arrived at about 9:30am, to find one of the longest entry lines I’ve ever seen, waiting to go through security-screening, before finally going over to check the courtroom listings.

Mana’s name was on the list but it quoted court “0”, which doesn’t exist, so I went to the enquiries desk, where the girl checked but couldn’t find the correct court # either, so she directed me to another desk, on the second floor. I went up there & waited in line, before the staffer again confirmed that the listing didn’t show a court # & he then suggested I try court #1, back on the ground floor, because that’s where most bail hearing are dealt with.

I went down to court 1 & was encouraged when I saw 7 News reporter, Kristy Mayr (per video), sitting in the gallery. I went to the clerk’s desk & asked her if she could confirm that I was in the right place for the Mana case but when she checked, she couldn’t see it on her screen. She asked for the accused’s full name & when I stated it, Kristy must have heard because she came over & said she’s already been told by somebody that the matter would be in court 1.

The clerk spent 5 minutes researching, including by phone, & at least one instant - when a relevant court room # did appear on screen – before disappearing again immediately! I asked whether the global ransomware issue had struck them this morning - before she was finally able confirm that the Magistrate who she thought might be hearing the matter was scheduled to sit in court 11, on level 4. Kristy & I got the lift up to level 4 & entered court 11 at about 10am – the scheduled start-time for the hearing – to find numerous people, including some other reporters, already there – but no Magistrate. He eventually arrived at 10:10 – his name is Reardon - & he took a couple of minutes to check his computer listings, before calling the matter of Wayel Mana. He then said that it appeared that the accused hadn’t been brought to court this morning & the defence guy confirmed that. Mag R said he couldn’t proceed unless Mana was in court, or available via video link, so he asked his clerk to check when a link could be established. His clerk got on the phone & shortly revealed that a video link might be available at 2pm but that before confirming, they’d have to check the availability of the accused, as well as various support staff who’d have to be in the loop, too.

Mag R didn’t take this news very well – he asked his clerk to ring back & insist that that “the co-ordinator” come up to confirm in person whether a video link was definitely available for 2pm. We all then sat in silence until about 10:35, when Mag R adjourned the hearing & I decided to bail out, as I had another date for the morning.

 

As I said – WOFTAM!!!

 

Cheers,

 

Bill Thompson


Houli-Douly! Kirribilli Iftar Old Mates Act kicks in for Waleed, Mal and Bachar

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 10.19.22 am

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 10.13.47 am
 

 

Bachar Houli ban: It's absurd that a prime minister got an AFL player's suspension cut

 

These might have been the only words from Malcolm Turnbull to have persuaded anyone this year.

The Prime Minister argued on Bachar Houli's behalf. That unprecedented advocacy at the tribunal delivered an equally unprecedented result.

Or perhaps it was Dr Waleed Aly's spirited defence of Houli that turned their heads. For certain Aly's was the only doctor's advice the AFL tribunal was convinced by on Tuesday evening.

Turnbull and Aly offered such strong character references for Houli it prompted the AFL tribunal to abandon normal thinking and cut his sentence.

Houli was found guilty of deliberately hitting Jed Lamb and knocking him out with a blow that struck him in the head. It was intentional, it was high impact and it was to the head.

This is about as serious a charge as the tribunal gets. Amazingly the punishment that serious charge received was about as low as it could get. In fact it was much lower.

Houli's two-match ban was at the very best cut in half because of his outstanding character and at worst he might have been banned for more than three times that. On the identical charge Barry Hall got seven matches.

Offences of this category are off the AFL's chart and punishment is left to the discretion of the tribunal. The counsel assisting the tribunal Andrew Woods reasoned that four matches should have been the starting point for this offence.

Woods reasonably extrapolated from the punishment schedule that if an offence of intentional, to the head and medium impact was three weeks then an offence worse than that must begin at four weeks and slide upwards depending on the circumstances. It was not envisaged it would slide down.

The tribunal then banned Houli for less time for a high impact blow to the head than they would have for another player striking with a medium impact blow. That is absurd. As far as discounts go this was a Boxing Day sale.

To be clear there is no question that Houli is an outstanding character, an admirable man and a leader in troubled times. He has done tremendous good to bridge the widening gap of a divided world, but a discount to two matches on the basis of fine character after deliberately hitting someone and knocking them out is ridiculous.

It is a well established argument in criminal courts that even good people occasionally do the wrong thing. Even really, really good people. Lamb was out before he hit the ground and never came back on the ground in the game.If there was recognition of the damage caused to Lamb and the potential damage that could have been caused to him (one-punch knockout blows have had far graver consequences), or of the message to other players of the consequence of their actions on the field then it was not manifest in this decision.

Indeed it was the same penalty a player would get if they didn't take the MRP's offer of a plea and instead challenged a light brush to the jaw from a deliberately thrown elbow and lost. That's right: someone like Will Schofield going to the tribunal and losing.

You could not disentangle the two cases heard on Tuesday – Houli then Schofield.

Schofield admitted he meant to hit Oliver and clipped him in the jaw with his elbow but argued contact was so slight as to be negligible. The MRP said it was low impact, he said it was barely any at all. If he failed in his case would have gotten two weeks.

A two-match ban, the same as Houli. How could the same tribunal possibly find against Schofield and ban him for the same length of time as Houli when by even no one's reckoning was Oliver's blow a heavy one?

Oliver did get hit, contact was definitely made and he did go to ground. The doctor's report did says he was assessed at half-time and after the game and he had a sore jaw. But he did not miss a minute of game time.

There was one surprising claim in Schofield's defence that Oliver might have hurt his jaw not when he was elbowed in the face but moments later when he remonstrated with the Eagles player and apparently used his face to strike Schofield's back. It was an ambitious line by David Grace QC, but given the defence was ultimately successful perhaps it was accepted.

No one actually said Oliver went down too easily or took a dive but the finding that contact was not sufficient for a charge implies as much.

What is curious about this is not that it felt like a wrong outcome or that Schofield should lose matches for such an incident, but that the AFL had only weeks ago said they did not want to see punches or strikes to the head.

The league said they were making a change mid-season and dialling down the level of force required to constitute an offence so what previously was a fine was now a week, what had been one week would now be two and so on.

The MRP followed their lead with plea offers but now the tribunal has not. The MRP take their cues from the tribunal, so what cues are they to take from these decisions? Check if someone is a really exceptional chap before deciding on a punishment?

Does the MRP now return to regarding low-impact punches as just that whether they are thrown when holding a jumper or not?

As Woods pointed out to the tribunal, the AFL tribunal guidelines state that "intentional strikes with a raised forearm or elbow will usually not be classified as low impact even though the extent of the actual physical impact may be low. Such strikes will usually be classified at a higher level commensurate with the nature and extent of the risk of serious injury involved."

That might usually be the case but this was an unusual case. It was an unusual night.