Robbery with a syringe, off for a mental health order

johnboy 4 August 2009 95

[First filed: August 03, 2009 @ 14:45]

The Supreme Court has published Chief Justice Higgins thoughts on the trial of Alice Coath who used a syringe to rob a Mr Scott Murray and Ms Bajwa of $20 they’d just taken out of an ATM in Civic.

(It’s always a delight to see the language of the street quoted amongst judicial niceties.)

    32. In essence, it seems to me, that she did demand money. Whether it was Ms Bajwa or Mr Murray, as she thought it was, who handed her the money, I am satisfied it was Ms Bajwa and that the $20 was handed over in response to a perceived threat of attack with a syringe.

    33. That makes out the actus reus of the charge of aggravated robbery. That, of course, does not dispose of the matter as it is quite clear from Dr Thompson’s report that Ms Coath was in no fit state either to recollect accurately what had happened or to have formulated the intention of doing that which the law forbid.

    34. In other words she was not in a fit state to have the mens rea, as we would put it, for the commission for the offence, that is, to act both deliberately and intentionally with an understanding of the consequences of what she was doing. Quite clearly she was not. That inability arises from the mental impairment which Dr Thompson has so fully described in her report.

    35. In consequence I enter a verdict of not guilty on the ground of mental impairment.

    38. I consider therefore it to be a reasonable option for her to be released into the community. That option is open, and it is a more appropriate one. I direct that the accused submit to the jurisdiction of the Australian Capital Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal, to enable that body to make a mental health order.

It appears the trick is to get wasted before attempting to commit robberies.

UPDATED: Scott has kindly left his thoughts in the comments which I thought were worthy of the front page:

    #24 posted by scottie_517
    22:30, 3 Aug 2009

    I am Scott Murray. This is just wrong. That’s all i have to say. Oh, by the way, thanks for calling me, director of public prosecutions, to let me know the outcome of the trial as promised.

    After being dragged over hot coals by Alice’s defence attorney (I was accused of taking drugs and trying to lie to the police to manipulate them!!!!), as well as having over a three year wait for any result – I can’t believe this.

    Not only during the course of the case was she let off on bail a day or two after committing the offence, we (Deb and I) were accidentally summonsed to her bail hearing! (Take a fresh look at us before you get out Alice.

    It’s funny the false dialogue that someone wrote about a conversation between Alice and Higgins. It kind of went like that while I was waiting to give testimony. She’s obviously in there (the courts) a fair bit, because all of the custodial officers were giving her hugs in front of Deb and I and asking her how she was going (on a first name basis).

    Thanks legal system – my faith in justice is restored.

    Scott Murray

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95 Responses to Robbery with a syringe, off for a mental health order
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beezle beezle 12:32 pm 25 Jan 11

Like most of us have done at some point in our lives, I jumped on Google on Sunday afternoon and typed in the name of an old friend.
I was hoping to find her on facebook so we could catch up on the last 12 or so years since we lost contact.

Instead of finding a facebook page, I found this post.

I met Alice Coath in a Pearl Jam chat room, way back when we were new to being teenagers. She was funny and brave and one of my favourite people to talk to. We’d call each other and laugh and talk for hours about nothing, an ability all teenage girls have, but one that tends to disappear as we get older.

We grew up together for those first couple of years. I was a very shy, self-conscious child, and Alice was this brave girl, not really afraid to try new things. I admired that in her and was always attracted to people just like her, probably hoping to learn how they did it.

Reading this thread has been one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. I had been told via a mutual friend many years ago, when asking if she’d heard from Alice, that she had gone into rehab. I tried to make contact with her then, but did not know where to begin. I even have a vague recollection of speaking to her, but can’t for the life of me recall what was said.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think the girl I used to laugh and share my most important thoughts with would one day be the centre of a situation like this one.

Reading all the horrible things said about her has been difficult. I understand the anger projected at her, knowing that if I’d been faced with the situation she put Mr Murray and Ms Bajwa in, I would be just as angry. The difference here is that to me, Alice isn’t just another junkie. Alice is the girl I talked to when I was too scared to speak to my parents, or when I had something really important to share that I felt nobody else would understand.

Alice is the girl my family took me to visit when I was 14, and we spent the day taking photos in the park near her house. Those photos from that day were put into the slideshow my sister made for our family this Christmas just past. When they came up on the TV on Christmas morning, amidst the photos of my siblings and I as babies, with our vegemite-covered faces, I was so happy. I hadn’t seen those photos for 14 years.

I don’t want to offend anyone involved in this situation by posting this. Alice made some bad decisions in her life that led her to the moment she encountered Mr Murray and Ms Bajwa, and at the end of the day, the responsibility of her addiction and the subsequent robbery, is hers to bear, but Alice wasn’t an evil person. Alice was a girl. Just a normal girl, with a mother, a father, and a sister who loved her and had to live through the agony of watching someone so precious to them, lose herself in addiction.

You can never tell what life is going to throw in your path, and unfortunately, the nature of addiction is such that you don’t know you’re an addict until you try to stop, until it’s too late to stop. Of course, we all have choices whether or not we put our feet on a path that may lead us down a bad road. Unfortunately, Alice made that decision when she was too young to truly understand what the lifelong consequences of her decision were. I know the decisions I made as a teenager certainly weren’t made with any kind of long-term consequences in mind. I was immortal as a teenager. We all were. Besides, drug addiction is something that belongs to other people, never to us.

I don’t expect anyone else to feel the sadness that I feel, reading her story. I certainly don’t expect the people she terrified with the syringe to feel any sympathy for a life, wasted.

But Alice could be your sister, your cousin, your daughter, your wife. She was somebody’s daughter. She was my friend. I have no answers, no opinion on the sentence Alice did or should have received. All I know is that a girl I loved is now dead and instead of mourning her death, I am mourning the moments of her life that took her from that bright girl I entered my teenage years with to someone whose mind was so broken that she threatened someone with a syringe to steal $20.

Nothing can be done to redress this situation. No compensation can be given to her victims and nothing will bring Alice back, or change the way her life was lived. But maybe, each of us who has commented here, so obviously affected one way or another by this story, can take this horrible situation with us and talk to the teenagers in our lives about the real consequences of drugs and the way something that seems like a bit of fun with your mates can very quickly and easily destroy your entire life. That is the reality of heroin, not just something in the movies.

Don’t talk down to them, but talk to them like the adults they’re about to become. They still won’t comprehend the lifelong ramifications of drug use, many adults I know still don’t, but if something positive can come from the negative parts of Alice’s life, I hope it would be that somehow, her story reaches someone who is about to start treading the path she lived on, and encourages them to walk away from it.

Captain RAAF Captain RAAF 12:42 pm 18 Oct 10


Mr Gillespie said :

She’s gone. Gone forever.



Mr Gillespie Mr Gillespie 12:16 pm 18 Oct 10

Farnarkler, Alice is not around anymore. I don’t know how to put this in a public forum (because I feel for her family), but she is gone permanently.

farnarkler farnarkler 6:50 pm 17 Oct 10

She uses drugs now. If she’s put in jail, she’ll still have access to drugs. Win win situation for her habit.

Captain RAAF Captain RAAF 6:19 pm 17 Oct 10

I live in quiet anticipation for the day when some druggie tries to rob me with a syringe….the end result will make International headlines!

Mr Gillespie Mr Gillespie 3:01 pm 17 Oct 10

She’s gone. Gone forever.

Allllllan Allllllan 1:10 pm 29 Aug 09

Was the precedent set when Higgin’s mates let his son Gareth off on similiar grounds that he was off his face. Cannot remember the details of why they have not locked him up for bashing his parents or any number of pregnant girlfreinds. As many of our legal practioners have seen fit to let Gareth remove himself from having to adhere to any standards of reasonable behaviour, in regard to dealings with his own family, due to his drug addiction, perhaps Terry Higgins is trying to ensure some consistency across the ACT legal system.

Thumper Thumper 8:45 am 05 Aug 09

How long until she does over someone else because he needs a fix?

FC FC 7:41 am 05 Aug 09

Serenace 1. I undersood what what you wrote. and I think you made some good points.

dvaey dvaey 3:23 am 05 Aug 09

Ozi said :

I can accept that Alice may have been mentally affected at the time of the crime: no big suprise there to anyone.

I have no doubt at all that at the time of this offence, she was affected by something, whether it be mental or drug-induced, no-one can ever know.. however, given her history my money is fairly on drug-induced.

Ozi said :

However, the biggest disappointment of this outcome is two pronged: Firstly, she is free in the community, now without any bail conditions. Secondly, she is now in the hands of ACT Mental Health.

Sadly, like many in her situation, this will only provide a partial outcome. From the offenders point of view, the best long-term option would be some form of committal treatment, to get her out of the drug circle. Theres no point releasing someone back onto the streets if theyre just going to get more drugs and repeat the cycle again. She needs rehabilitation, in a secure environment, until she is back clean of the drugs.

Alice can be one of the friendliest people youll meet, but she can also turn in a moment, mostly due to use and abuse of drugs. This isnt some situation of a new drug-user unable to handle the stuff, this runs much deeper in society and life than can be cured by a few simple mental health orders. Sadly, our friendship many years ago, ended due to her drug-dependence cycle and her inability to get support to stay off the drugs and out of trouble.

I have no doubt that she committed this crime, but I also have no doubt that without proper treatment that scottie wont be the last person to feel her wrath. I am in no way trying to excuse her actions in this situation, however I know her well enough to say her actions were drug-induced, not mental-issue induced.

Granny Granny 1:39 am 05 Aug 09

Serenace1 said :

I also saw first hand how things are done there when it comes to justice. Wait…. There wasn’t any. And it wouldn’t change the traumatic experience of it anyway. Just how I came to feel about it.

I know, Serenace1. But there were people who cared about my situation, and there are people who care about yours. I care. Justice is something worth fighting for.

Serenace1 Serenace1 12:44 am 05 Aug 09

Just generating discussion. No threat intended at all. I played up in Canberra whilst i was there as a misguided teen. There were foolish decisions made. I also saw first hand how things are done there when it comes to justice. Wait…. There wasn’t any. And it wouldn’t change the traumatic experience of it anyway. Just how I came to feel about it. Not even those seeking to find out the truth cared, simply a trophy grab I feel.

Granny Granny 10:56 pm 04 Aug 09

Serenace1 said :

To what extent do people care about seeing their perceived ideas of justice actualize?

Protest? Yes, very possibly.
Lobby formation? Certainly.
Riot? Certainly not.
How about an exploration of ways to minimize crime? Review of evidence-base and world’s best practices, in consultation with all major stakeholders, yes, already suggested.
People care that much? Yes, we do.
Huh? Huh?
Go and raise finance for research on new methods to combat crime? I doubt it. Obviously rhetorical, however, isn’t the Australian Institute of Criminology already funded to do this? Do they really need me to go and stand out in Civic with a teacup and beg?
Its ok to not really care about the trauma of others i feel. Disagree. Herein lies our humanity.
I mean is it even possible to ever know what someone experiences in a trauma? Yes, if one has experienced something similar. Most people have enough of a life experience base to at least be able to empathise with a victim of a crime e.g. we love our pets and can’t imagine life without them therefore we can relate to the trauma of having a loved pet poisoned. Hardly rocket science.
I think its amounts to moral tears. If we truly all care so much about crime and its effects on the community then we would be trying to take crime away. What do you think the system is there for? Because the community don’t want protection? Because it’s not valuable to the community to have police and courts and prisons?
Crime is a problem, no doubt, its just not that big of a problem. Not yet. It is if it happens to you.

Henny_Penny Henny_Penny 9:39 pm 04 Aug 09

Serenace 1. Your post makes absolutely no sense at all. Is it supposed to be some kind of threat?

Serenace1 Serenace1 8:25 pm 04 Aug 09

Well its good to see that everyone can engage in a healthy discussion about these things. After all the law was made by the people for the people and its great to see people being passionate about it all. Its just sincerity of it all that I find suspicious. And maybe the logic too. To what extent do people care about seeing their perceived ideas of justice actualize? Will their be a protest? Lobby formation? Riot perhaps? How about an exploration of ways to minimize crime? People care that much? Huh? Go and raise finance for research on new methods to combat crime? I doubt it. Its ok to not really care about the trauma of others i feel. I mean is it even possible to ever know what someone experiences in a trauma? I think its good to be involved and discuss it , i just don’t believe most of it. I think its amounts to moral tears. If we truly all care so much about crime and its effects on the community then we would be trying to take crime away. Crime is a problem, no doubt, its just not that big of a problem. Not yet.

monomania monomania 8:12 pm 04 Aug 09

Pommy bastard said :

And that constitues “baying for blood”?

Laughable. Your hyperbole gets the better of you.


Addison Addison 8:08 pm 04 Aug 09

if its a choice of your fammily’s safety or the ‘rights’ of some druggie scumbag, the family wins every time. noone forced the druggie to start abusing substances. this is about protecting the innocent.

Thumper Thumper 7:55 pm 04 Aug 09

Franky, if I or any of my family or friends were threatened by someone in such a way and I had the opportunity to react, I would kick the shit out of the mugger.

No questions asked.

utah utah 7:46 pm 04 Aug 09

Do some believe that safety and crime rates can be determined by the justice system? Foolishness.
— Serenace1

By your argument, if the justice system cannot control the crime rate, we can abolish it. If their presence doesn’t make a difference, neither will their absence.

I think that’s nonsense; I think that people in prison aren’t able to mug people in Civic at the same time. I think if young Alice is incarcerated – even if she doesn’t change her ways – at least she’ll be less likely to hurt anyone during that time.

Also, I’m still not convinced Mens Rea was proven. Like Pommy B’Stard said, she didn’t “hold them up at banana point and ask them to cover her in sherbet”. She had a plan, and executed the plan; including picking a human target, producing a weapon, asking for money, taking the money, and walking away. That’s still a whole lot of well-coordinated mental, physical and verbal activity for someone to do without understanding what they’re doing.

Pelican Lini Pelican Lini 7:30 pm 04 Aug 09

Just to clarify, if I were to have mental illness and get shitfaced, I can do anything I want and I won’t go to jail?

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