Ten Years ‘On the Top’ for One-Punch Death

On 10 January, 2015, in a case that captured much of the nation’s attention, the family of 18 year-old Daniel Christie were faced with the unimaginable decision regarding whether to terminate his life support. Eleven days earlier, on New Years Eve, Mr Christie was the victim of an unprovoked punch that saw him collapse in Kings Cross and hit his head on the road, the incidents leading to Mr Christie’s death.

Today, the New South Wales Supreme Court handed down a ten year sentence for Mr Christie’s attacker, Mr Shaun McNeil (27 years old). The sentence includes a period of non-parole of 7.5 years, and is also a sentence in satisfaction of the manslaughter of Mr Christie and the assault of two other victims in Kings Cross that same night (both surviving).

Justice Hulme described the attack as both “cowardly” coming from a “powerfully built man” and also one of the “most extreme” cases of manslaughter. The Supreme Court has released a statement on the sentence that can be found here, and I encourage all to read it: http://t.co/5YapknUZP5

While there is no diminishing the tragedy for the Christie family and the community at large, it is important that in cases such as this, where the national imagine has been gripped firmly, that we do our best to inform ourselves of the totality of the circumstances. In few fields of criminal law sentencing does this seem more apparent than in regards to ‘one-punch’ deaths. Perhaps it is the inherent cowardice involved in attacks like this, the unpredictability of the attack, the feeling of great outrage at how little victims deserve it. Regardless, there is no denying the topic has seized Australia’s attention and perchance for outrage for the past few years. To put the matter into perspective though, in 15 years there have been but 18 one punch deaths. By comparison, domestic violence deaths make up approximately 40% of crime-related deaths every year.

All too often it seems that we are happy to swallow the minute glimpse of information that news sources (often bias riddled sources at that) can spit out into the public domain in 140 characters of less (that is, once you take away the terrible #hashtags).

Former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, is well known for his stance on the the intersection between the law, the public, and the media, having previously commented that: “[Headlines] are deliberate attention-grabbers; but they are also, deliberately or not, opinion-shapers.” (‘Thomas Kelly: This was Never a Case of Murder, SMH, 10 November 2013).

The sentencing process is a long and complex exercise in discretion, and the judiciary may not always get it right. What we need to remind ourselves though is that few people are better poised than a judicial officer to pass the judgement that they must. Almost no one else in our society has the access to the material, the background knowledge, and the experience to carry out the sentencing process. It is at times like this that we must remember this, and consider the totality of information before we dust off our soapboxes.

Now it’s time to put mine away.

By Nathan Johnston

Law Clerk

“Make them take responsibility” – Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse


‘Make them take responsibility’

Today, youth worker Ashley Cadd, represented by Aaron Kernaghan, Solicitor, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that a Superintended of a juvenile facility in Victoria had  “virtually nothing” to do with those on the coal face.

Mr Cadd worked at Turana between 1968 and 1979 and said the children were too frightened of staff to report sexual abuse.

He told the commission the staff were given “Mickey Mouse” training and there were no specific policies in the Turana manual on dealing with sexual abuse or what was termed “unnatural acts”.

Mr Cadd told the inquiry the supervision of boys at night was “horrifically” inadequate, with one officer trying to watch rooms through a slot in the door, and unable to turn the light on.

“You might have four or five children in a room, but you couldn’t see through the slot,” he said.

Mr Cadd said the boys were treated deplorably by a department that should have been exercising the role of parents.

“They [the boys] may have been offenders but they’re human beings starting on the journey of life,” he said.

“I’m near the end of mine. But so help me God, I hope somebody puts the proverbial rocket under the department and make them take responsibility for what they’ve undertaken and sworn to do, but never carried out.”

He added: “You can’t rectify what was done in the past but you can damn we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Earlier this week, the royal commission heard that more than 200 former residents of state care had suffered ongoing trauma, including nightmares and mental health issues, as a result of abuse they suffered at the hands of staff and other residents.

The hearing continues in Melbourne and is expected to last into next week.



Royal Commission Case Study 30

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commenced Case Study 30 at the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne on Monday this week. The public hearing will bear witness to the experiences of men and women who resided at the Turana Youth Training Centre, Winlaton Youth Training Centre and Baltara Reception Centre between the 1960’s and early 1990’s.

The public hearing will examine the responses of these institutions and their staff members to allegations of child sexual abuse during this period. It will also explore the response of the State of Victoria, including the Victoria Police and the Department of Health and Human Services to allegations of child sexual abuse of former residents at youth training and reception centres.

Live streaming of the Royal Commission proceedings can be found at the link below:


Trial by Combat – An innovative solution to legal disputes?

Game of Thrones

A fan of HBO’s popular fantasy drama television series, Game of Thrones, has reportedly taken his love for the show a step too far – asking for a trial by combat.

Richard Luthmann, a Staten Island attorney, is demanding that one of the plaintiffs in a suit against him face him in a literal battle to the death unless the case against him is dismissed. He has reportedly filed a document in the New York Supreme Court asking that his common law right to trial by combat be granted.

Mr Luthmann is facing allegations that he advised a former client to liquidate his assets and move funds beyond the reach of creditors. The plaintiffs are seeking $550,000 plus punitive damages for what they claim is a breach of state law.

According to Mr Luthmann, trial by combat has never been formally eliminated from US courts.

Accordingly, documents filed with the Court requested that “the Court permit the Undersigned to dispatch Plaintiffs and their counsel to the Divine Providence of the Maker for Him to exact His Divine Judgment once the Undersigned has released the souls of the Plaintiffs and their counsel from their corporeal bodies, personally and/or by way of a Champion.”

It brings to mind that fateful episode for Oberyn Martell in which The Mountain defeated Oberyn in a bloody display of gratuitous violence capitulating in what could be described as an over zealous attempt to crack an egg shell. For Mr Luthmann’s sake, one would hope that it does not end in the same way!

For initial story see link:




Being a troublemaker is not something we necessarily associate with highly sensitive people, those gentle souls who are loath to hurt others.

The label, troublemaker, is not something that we usually generate for ourselves either. It is usually conferred by others when they encounter something uncomfortable in themselves courtesy of another person.

Highly Sensitive And A Troublemaker?

Highly sensitive people are usually very conscientious, cautious, perceptive and empathetic.

Highly sensitive people often see what others cannot because they operate from an atypical perceptual reality. When people think differently, many assume that is is an ideological difference that is being expressed. In the case of HSPs, however, what is being expressed is a biological difference.

Highly sensitive people have nervous systems that absorb all the stimulus and energy around them. Their nervous systems are like sponges, which makes them uncomfortable and other people as well. Highly sensitive people notice when someone is uncomfortable, sad or angry no matter how much someone attempts to hide their feelings. They notice when something is not working very well, differences in perception and reality, mistakes of judgment and an other energetic event.

Highly sensitive people necessarily have values that support their sensitive natures including kindness and fairness. They are able to see the pitfalls in a competitive social structure and are unlikely to support the destructive aspects of it.

People who do not understand the highly sensitive nature may feel uncomfortable around HSPs and even think of them as troublemakers.

Characteristics Of Troublemakers

Why would anyone be labeled a troublemaker? Aren’t we all in this together?

The label suggests that there is something to protect against. It suggests that the group is dependent on the existence of certain behaviors, beliefs and ideas to sustain it. It also suggests that we each of us have the job of protecting the group, that protecting the group is one price of membership.

Troublemaker is a social label. Who gets the label?

  • people who belong to another social group
  • people who look different
  • people with different customs and social habits

Those are just superficial reasons for labeling someone a troublemaker or potential problem.

There are deeper ones:

  • people who think differently
  • people with different values
  • someone kind and empathetic in a culture that is not
  • someone who notices disconnects
  • someone who notices that which is overlooked, devalued and deferred
  • someone who notices imbalances and inequities
  • someone who notices a need for change

When Awareness Is A Liability

When we are young we take in everything around us. We may not understand it, but we take it in nonetheless. In particular we take in what is supported and what is not. We usually then adopt the supported behaviors and reject unsupported ones. This is how we survive. In fact we have to. When people wonder why prejudice survives this is why: each generation learns the accepted attitudes of their social group and rejects the unaccepted ones including the prejudices towards different kinds of people.

For highly sensitive people, the situation is not so easy. Our perceptual system is different so we cannot help but think and feel differently. We will also notice that our perceptions are often not supported and that will leave us with a quandary about what to do and think. It may increase self-doubt, cause depression and leave us feeling lonely. We will feel our conflict with our social group and not know what to do:

  • Do we speak our truth?
  • Do we say nothing when we know something is wrong?
  • How can we live in our authenticity when we are so at odds with others around us?

When we go along with the group we may compromise our integrity. When we live our truth we may be labeled a troublemaker.

It requires a lot of learning to know when to speak and when not to, how to support healthy change without being alienating, and how to b respectful and also disagree.

These are important challenges for highly sensitive people whose wisdom the world needs and needs to be able to accept. We may be labeled troublemakers sometimes but we are far from it.

Source: http://www.hsphealth.com/embrace-inner-troublemaker/

Deep Blue Sea For Real!

Look out Samuel L. Jackson, the sharks are real!!! It seems that you can’t open a Newspaper or your internet browser in the last month without there being a reference to sharks. True it is that there has been a seemingly alarming increase in the amount of worldwide and local shark and human encounters that even 3 x world surfing champion couldn’t escape! Just when you thought things couldn’t get anymore scary for those of us that like to take a dip into the brine then footage released this week from Mexico shows a six metre, 2200KG great white shark coming up to check out some cage divers (and one diver who is inexplicably not in a cage!). Finally, like a scene from a summer on Amity Island (See JAWS) on the New South Wales North Coast over the weekend a 5 metre tiger shark was caught accidentally as it ate the 6ft hammerhead shark that was on the charter fisherman’s line!! I’m not sure about you but every time I get in the water recently the familiar Da Na Da Na Da Na noises get a little louder.

For the footage of the Deep Blue shark click here.


You have the right to remain silent!

Just when you thought you couldn’t hear anything whackier come out of the United States recently (‘Google’ Donald Trump if you don’t know what I’m talking about) then this comes out, an eight year old boy has been handcuffed at school to prevent him ‘acting out’.

Video has been leaked of the child who cannot be named hancuffed with his arms behind his back with the cuffs being placed on his biceps as they were too large for his wrists. The child who happens to have ADHD can be heard saying “Oh, God. Ow, that hurts.”

Not surprisingly child experts are up in arms (pardon the pun) about the issue.


Lift Imitating Art or Art Imitating Art?

Oscar Wilde opined in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life“. It seems that Mr Wilde was certainly on point in relation to allegations out of France that three French students murdered and buried a fellow student in tub of acid over a drug debt akin to a scene from the hit TV series Breaking Bad.

Given the amount of popular TV series and the stratospheric rise of streaming sites like Netflix it is only likely that the binge TV watchers will continue to imitate art.  Let’s just hope that the 2016 Presidential Nominees aren’t fans of House of Cards!

For the full article click here.



New Speaker of the House

In an announcement certain to cause disquiet among the hallowed halls of Canberra politics, Australian Prime Minister has sought to distance himself from his own party and recent woes with Bronwyn Bishop by appointing the first independent, non political Speaker of the House.

Humphrey B Bear has been synonymous with keeping children quiet throughout daytime television for years. A major centrepiece in children’s television in Australia, Humphrey (who identifies as a trans-species person) has worked tirelessly since his retirement from children’s TV promoting his favourite cause – mute disabilities. He himself has managed to maintain an extraordinary career on television, that most visual of mediums, while being entirely mute. Reknown for his ability to communicate through a series of hand-on-mouth expressions (that variously mean happy, sad, shocked, optimistic, yes, no or other states of assertiveness), Humphrey has been one of the leaders of reform for mute-persons in Australia.

In a press release, issued from the office of B Bear, Humphrey had this to say:

The Prime Minister welcomed that sentiment and noted that,

   “Humphrey’s ability to deliver a level of dignity and decorum to the chamber will be a useful tool. No one is going to question a ruling issued from the hand of a mute person wearing no pants and who is very furry.”

Humphrey will take up his position in the new session of parliament and is expected to mark the occasion by changing his traditional plaid vest. It is unknown whether or not Humphrey will finally dispel years of rumours by confirming whether or not he does, in fact, identify as gay or if there is a Mrs B Bear waiting in the corner.


Humphrey depicted above during less happy times – during his infamous 2004
battle with alcoholism and Crystal Meth.