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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4274 ..

Death of Mr Kevin Dobson

MR STEFANIAK (8.55): Mr Speaker, between the time of the sitting in October and this sitting a well-known Canberra identity and Canberra magistrate, Kevin Townley Dobson, passed away, aged 82. Dobo was an absolute legend and I certainly want to pay tribute to him tonight. I spent a number of years appearing in front of him. It is probably true to say his bark was worse than his bite. He certainly terrified a lot of people, including junior practitioners, but you did get used to him. He was an excellent magistrate, a credit to the profession and a great Canberran and Australian.

He came to Canberra from Broken Hill where he was a stipendiary magistrate, having gone up through the courts of petty sessions after he finished his war service with the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II. He was a keen golfer. I think I probably first met him well before I started practising law because he and my father used to play golf, and certainly after golf go to the 19th hole at the Federal. I probably met him there. On occasions I might go to pick my father up.

I came across him as a magistrate pretty soon after I joined the DPP, or the DCS as it then was, back in 1979. I think Jack Waterford, who not only reported Kevin Dobson's decisions but probably appeared on the wrong side of the fence as a defendant on occasions in his student days, wrote a very good article in relation to Dobo, and that certainly rings a bell with me. Jack actually said that he certainly was a very predictable, fair magistrate.

It was a very efficient court that Kevin Dobson ran. It was very much a people's court. He would often be finished fairly early, by about 1 o'clock or so, and I can remember one defendant once saying to him something to the effect: "Look, you should go get a part-time job". He said, "Why? I've got the best part-time job in the world."That was largely because he was so efficient. He did the A list, which was where people who first got into court would go. They would either plead guilty or have their matters adjourned and perhaps have hearing dates set.

I regularly appeared there myself, and I remember one occasion back in 1981 where Dobo's sense of humour came to the fore, through his efficiency. Dobo liked to smoke and, unlike some magistrates, he would leave at 11.15 for morning tea, go out the back and have a few Rothmans, and be back in at 11.30 on the dot. You could set your clock by it.

On this day I was doing the A list as the prosecutor, and a young bloke, whom we'll call Johnny Smith, was up for offensive language. In those days if they pleaded guilty you merely handed up an A5 piece of paper which had the offensive words on it. Johnny Smith was there. He apparently had uttered these words at 1.30 am in Weed Close, Belconnen. We started at 11.13. He said he wanted to plead guilty, did that, apologised for causing everyone trouble. Dobo asked him if he could pay a fine if given time to pay; fined him the statutory $10 or one day in default; asked him if 28 days to pay was long enough and he said it was; and then Dobo looked at his watch, a 90-second court case, this one; it was 11.14 and 30 seconds. He got up from the bench, and walked partly away. Little Johnny Smith was still there at the microphone, bewildered by it all. Dobo

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