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Robbery with a syringe, off for a mental health order

By 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
    (Troublemaker)
    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

What’s Your opinion?


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95 Responses to
Robbery with a syringe, off for a mental health order
dvaey 7:22 pm 03 Aug 09

I know far too much about this story, to ever have any faith in our justice system again after a verdict such as this.. pending the outcome of further mental health orders anyway.

harvyk1 7:19 pm 03 Aug 09

IMHO Using drugs as a reason for committing the crime should not be a valid defence.

Whilst she may be addicted, and thus the drugs now control her actions, she at some point in the past made a choice to either directly take drugs, or head down a path which would lead to drug taking (eg drinking first and making the decision to use whilst drunk).

If she had never been in the position to make that choice (through prior mental illness) then it’s just as much reason to protect the community from her, as her illness is effectively a time bomb which needed to be managed.

It really irritates me that people can do things like this and get nothing more than a stern few words, when they both need to be punished properly, and be kept away from the community until they are fit to re-enter it, be it through jail or a mental hospital.

Addison 7:17 pm 03 Aug 09

time for the glue factory

Wraith 7:07 pm 03 Aug 09

Clown Killer said :

Higgins is a workhorse of the legal system if you ask me – tirelessly providing material to annoy and agitate those who genuinely believe that they’re in a position to know better. Don’t just sit there in slack-jawed indignation people – get angry!

Yep, workhorse, you are right, so lets put him down, been working too hard.

jakez 5:27 pm 03 Aug 09

It doesn’t need to make someone rob another at syringe point, it just needs to disqualify them from the mens rea component of the crime. You are confusing active causation with an incapacity to mentally connect with ones actions.

By all means question sacred cows, I’m a big believer in it. Just understand the cow before you attempt to bring it down.

Pommy bastard 4:45 pm 03 Aug 09

And which “mental health problem” is it which makes people rob others at syringe point?

I must have missed that one when I studdied the DSM IV…

But of course it makes sense for her to have community treatment, as, if she does it again, we’ll know if her condition isn’t being treated proprely. (Sod the poor bugger at the other end of her syringe attack.)

harvyk1 4:34 pm 03 Aug 09

Clown Killer said :

Higgins is a workhorse of the legal system if you ask me – tirelessly providing material to annoy and agitate those who genuinely believe that they’re in a position to know better. Don’t just sit there in slack-jawed indignation people – get angry!

The legal system is suppose to reflect the views taken by the wider public. The laws and judgements are meant to reflect what we as a community believe our standard should be. Despite this there are certain judges who seem to put their own values above and beyond what the community feels is appropriate punishment.

Higgins is a classic example. I even believe he has gone on public record stating he does not like sending people to jail, and thus that belief is held when he is sentencing. The problem is that he holds and enforces this view despite people appearing before him repeatedly.

Whilst yes, we don’t know all the sides of the story, chances are if your fronting up for court on a monthly basis your doing something wrong.

DarkLadyWolfMother 4:12 pm 03 Aug 09

Hopefully that last bit about the mental health order means she might get the help she needs.

If not, it seems that just releasing into the community means it could happen again.

screaming banshee 3:41 pm 03 Aug 09

get thee to a nunnery

Skidbladnir 3:40 pm 03 Aug 09

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

Even if she is in various states of drug-induced stupor at the time, I’m guessing its more of a trick in having an established documented history of mental health recommendations, and having paranoia and delierium listed as recurrent symptoms by psychiatric professionals.

Skidbladnir 3:35 pm 03 Aug 09

PBO, he can only determine guilt\innocence on what the defendant is charged with.
In this case, 3. The offence which is charged is that of aggravated robbery. Robbery is the stealing of property, in this case it is alleged to be $20, by means of force or the threat of force. That threat of force will be constituted by the threat, whether express or implied, to inflict harm on the person who holds the property, in order to persuade them to give it up. In this case the aggravation is the presence of a weapon, which is alleged to be a syringe containing a needle at the end of it.

The pertinent part of the whole transcript was left out of Jb’s account, being:
26. …the report of Dr Thompson was tendered. I do not need to refer to that anymore than to say both counsel are agreed that it would, in the event of an adverse finding on the question of what actually happened, warrant an acquittal on the grounds of mental impairment.

PS: Last time there was a reference to an Alice Coath and mental impairment, was ten months ago, when her set trial for her ‘conduct which is alleged to have occurred as long ago as 14 April 2006’ (crime unknown) was vacated on grounds of mental health examination(ie: rescheduled pending outcome of exam), as a possible defence relating to mental impairment was raised by her defence counsel at the time.
Source: http://www.courts.act.gov.au/supreme/judgments/coath.htm

FC 3:35 pm 03 Aug 09

Not called for pptvb.

Is not ‘mens rea’ required (UNDER LAW) for a conviction to be made?
It is clear that mens rea was not established.
Don’t blame Justice Higgins for he did not right the law.

PBO – she is not being sentenced – as she was found NOT GUITLY.

Clown Killer 3:34 pm 03 Aug 09

Higgins is a workhorse of the legal system if you ask me – tirelessly providing material to annoy and agitate those who genuinely believe that they’re in a position to know better. Don’t just sit there in slack-jawed indignation people – get angry!

pptvb 3:23 pm 03 Aug 09

Maybe Gareth hit him harder than we thought!

PBO 3:04 pm 03 Aug 09

Would the Supreme court please replace this guy with someone who at can at least sentence properly. I can easily see a 2 charges of assault with a deadly weapon, 2 charges of robbery, Intimidation and possible deprivation of liberty.

Alice Coath: Sorry your honour, I got a bit munted and obviously had a riot of a night.

Justice Higgins: Thats allright dear, just dont do it again.

Alice Coath: Thanks Terry, whoops, I mean your honour.

Justice Higgins: Thats allright Luv, see you next time.

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