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With all due respect? That far out feeling...

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Cite as: (2008) 82(12) LIJ, p. 90

Certain situations in life are so bizarre, so confusing, that one feels that they have accidentally walked onto a Monty Python set.

This feeling is basically omnipresent for people who work in courtrooms, but even experienced hands were left speechless after a recent sentencing hearing in the District Court of Brisbane.

It started interestingly enough after an offender pleaded guilty to selling a quantity of green amphetamine tablets called “Kermits”, as an image of the iconic frog decorated one side.

The drug was a new arrival to Australian shores and the court heard there were many unknowns.

But then jaws dropped after the Crown prosecutor cited collaborative Internet-based “encyclopaedia” Wikipedia, where members of the public are free to post information or edit existing information, to reveal the drug’s ingredients and how it was made.

She managed to retain a straight face during the entire time it took to use an all-too-serious monotone to read the potentially dodgy information into the public record.

Those in the gallery feared not that justice would prevail and the defence team would interject, but when that gatekeeper remained seated all eyes turned to the presiding judge, wondering whether it would be disallowed.

However, the Wikipedia information was accepted like it was a National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report.

A disclaimer on the Wikipedia website states that users should be aware that “not all articles are of encyclopaedic quality and may contain false or debatable information” and warn against it being used as a research tool.

Other descriptions used by the team at Wikipedia include “heavily biased” and “insufficiently founded”.

Coincidentally, only days before the Queensland matter, the University of Queensland notified students that Wikipedia was not a reliable source of information and should be avoided.

Many readers will be enjoying a few rounds of golf these Christmas holidays. But in the unlikely event you play a shocker and start complaining about the game being a good walk spoiled, spare a thought for “Jung”.

The South Korean golfer had a day on the links he will remember for some time after an embarrassing shot landed him in court and his caddy in hospital for nearly two months.

According to news source Reuters, Jung, after deciding the long fairway of the third hole warranted a hefty swing, threw everything but the kitchen sink at the ball.

But milliseconds before the crucial point of impact, Jung’s left foot slipped and in a manoeuvre Einstein could not explain, the ball was propelled into the stomach of his caddie who was standing eight metres behind him.

In a recent court decision, the caddie won two million Won, about $2200 Australian dollars at the time of writing, but given the global economic crisis, who knows what at the time of reading.

The court said Jung had violated the duty of due care to prevent injury to others while playing a sport on that fateful day in 2006.

According to the judgment, while it was to be expected participants could be injured in some sports such as judo, a golf caddie would have no such expectations.

From The Netherlands comes an Associated Press report that a thief failed to convince a Dutch court that he should not be punished for making off with an unlocked bike.

The repeat offender made the unfortunate mistake of stealing a decoy pushbike planted by police at a train station that was being plagued by thefts.

The thief argued that the police plot amounted to entrapment, but the court ruled that placing an unlocked decoy bike didn’t make the suspect do anything he had not intended doing beforehand.

The man was given 22 days in jail – we say enough time to think up a better excuse for next time.

Miss Demeanour’s guide to life, love, law – and disorder

Cite as: (2008) 82(12) LIJ, p.90

Dear Miss Demeanour,

I recently attended the first of a string of Christmas parties. Talk about starting the season on a high! This party was hosted by a distinguished barrister, and the invited guests ranged from junior solicitors (the writer included) to members of the senior Bar and the judiciary. While the evening started in a dignified enough fashion, affairs quickly deteriorated. I’m not naming names, but I witnessed judicial table-dancing, plaintiff lawyers chain-smoking, others putting the “use” back into “abuse” of various substances and some quite extraordinary submissions made by members of the Bar. I’m keen to parlay this party season into a legal gossip blog, following which I can get a book deal and retire from practice. Is there anything stopping me from broadcasting these stories to the world?

Regards, Not-So-Anonymous Lawyer

Dear Not-So-Anonymous Lawyer,

Lawyers and gossip go together like lawyers and alcohol, and normally I would have the dubious pleasure of advising you that legally there is nothing between you and “literary” success. However, in this case, there is a massive roadblock on your path to fame: party professional privilege. This privilege attaches to all parties involving anyone with professional indemnity insurance, and exists to protect the administration of partying. The privilege continues indefinitely, so you can’t spill the gossip once the hangover has worn off. You should also note that while party professional privilege is a creature of the general law, there is a broader social rule applicable here, often referred to as the “what happens in Vegas” rule. In other words, if you drink up, shut up.


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