Page 377 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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I can recall some embarrassing moments on the bench. One was the only time I had a police officer in the box as a witness. It was in the old night court that we used to have then and which JD would always preside over. He loved night courts. None of the others did, but he did not mind. I think it was a disobey a red traffic light offence and I asked the police officer whether he had stopped the defendant at the lights near Fyshwick and the police officer said no. JD asked, “Well, why not?” and he said, “Well that’s not the defendant; the defendant isn’t the person I stopped,” which was a bit embarrassing for us all. Naturally, that matter was very quickly dismissed. Apparently, the poor person who ended up as the defendant had had his wallet taken and stolen by the person who had committed the traffic offence.

Of the number of cases I can recall, one that springs to my mind just epitomises all the great qualities JD had as a magistrate and as a human being. It involved a young bloke of about 19. It was the last case I did before I went to the First Assembly. He faced about 17 charges involving drink driving, driving while licence cancelled, three of assault police, three of resist arrest and a few others. We defended a few of them and he pleaded guilty to the other ones. He was a young bloke going nowhere, who had had some fairly significant convictions in the kids court and was rapidly drifting into what could have been a life of crime. But he had an interest in the services and I am pleased to say that he saw a little bit of sense and his mum and I persuaded him to go off to the recruiting place at Woden, where he expressed an interest in joining the army.

As usual, JD did a very sensible and professional job. He dismissed, I think, three cases of assault police, because they really were resist arrests, and when it came to what would be best for this young bloke he had a bit of a joke about whether he should go into the air force rather than the army. I can recall sort of arguing that point. It worried me a bit, when he thought that the bloke really should go into the air force and not the army, that it might have some dire consequences. But then I think he quickly thought that if the bloke was going into the services that was a very good thing to do. I think he fined him a certain amount of money on each of the offences on which he convicted him and gave him ample time to pay while he went through a recruit course.

That young man’s mother saw me about a year after that event and her son was doing exceptionally well in the army, had got through a recruit course, had joined the medical corps, was thoroughly enjoying life and was a completely turned-around individual. I think John Dainer had quite a few success stories like that as a result of the very sensible, down-to-earth, decent, practical approach he took on the bench.

Not only that; he was a man of great compassion. I was a young prosecutor and had been there for about year. I had had the traffic list and the minor criminal list with JD all day and at about 3.45 his court assistant, Nerida, said, “Mr Dainer wants to see you in his chambers.” I thought, “What have I done wrong? What have I done wrong here?” although I did not think anything had gone wrong.

It turned out to be a matter in relation to rugby. I was secretary of the club then and one of our players had actually done a very nasty, vicious, behind-play attack on one of John’s sons, which had injured him quite severely. Thankfully, he recovered fairly quickly from it, but it shows the measure of the man that JD was concerned about it and wanted to talk about it. I said I would quite understand if his son took any relevant

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