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Mr Guilty

We've all been guilty of a Freudian slip, but unintentional utterances by a judge can have amusing, if not grave consequences for a defendant.

13 November 2015

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This was the case in May when a Tasmanian judge prejudiced a trial by inadvertently referring to a defendant as 'Mr Guilty'.

The defendant was convicted of fraud but is seeking to have the verdict overturned by arguing that Chief Justice Alan Blow's comment made it an unfair trial.

Special counsel Mark Rinaldi told the Court of Criminal Appeal that Blow's blunder was a 'regrettable slip of the tongue' that could have influenced the jury.

However, Judge David Porter suggested the error would have no impact, given that Blow was reading from written material provided to the jurors. The court has reserved its decision.

Shaun Matthew Dimech was found guilty on 21 counts of dishonestly acquiring or attempting to dishonestly acquire a financial advantage.

It was reported that he had obtained AUS$50,000 by making online bets through betting agencies with debit cards, then reporting those transactions unauthorised and securing a bank reimbursement.

This is not the first time a defendant has been rechristened by a judge in open court. Recently, two Canadian cases have gone to appeal after the accused were also referred to as 'Mr Guilty'. In both cases, however, the appeals failed.

It looks like Dimech's new nickname might be sticking around for a long time.

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Procedures Courts & Judiciary