Judge inadvertently refers to defendant as, ‘Mr Guilty’

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Tasmanian Chief Justice Alan Blow prejudiced a trial by accidently referring to a defendant as ‘Mr Guilty’ back in May, the appeals court has heard.

Special counsel Mark Rinaldi told the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday that the judge’s slip of the tongue in his summing up to the jury had created a ‘prejudice or irregularity’ in the trial process.

The defendant, Shaun Matthew Dimech was convicted of fraud back in May but is seeking to have the verdict overturned on the basis that the judge’s comment made it an unfair trial, The Australian reported.

“It is a unique situation; it’s unfortunate; it rarely happens but it is fundamental to the right to a fair trial,” Rinaldi told the court.

But reports have speculated that the judges will dismiss this ground as they did not require the crown to make a response.  Judge David Porter suggested that the error would have had not have been misinterpreted and would likely not have any impact on the jury, given that he was reading from written material provided to the jurors.

According to The Australian, the jury found Dimech guilty on 21 counts of dishonestly acquiring or attempting to dishonestly acquire a financial advantage, by making online bets through agencies then then reporting the debit card transactions unauthorised and securing a bank reimbursement.

Dimech is also claiming in the appeal that a recording of a phone conservation between Dimech and Betfair in which Dimech makes a bet should have been excluded from the evidence.  The prosecutor told the court that the recording was not private and that the terms and conditions stipulate the recording can be used for the purposes of compliance with legislation.

The court reserved its decision.

Two recent Canadian cases where defendants have appealed on the basis that they had been referred to as ‘Mr Guilty’ by a judge both failed.