Friday, 05 April 2013

Taha v Magistrates’ Court (Supreme Court) - Jun 2011

This case was a judicial review of a Magistrates' Court decision to sentence Mr Taha to 80 days imprisonment for unpaid traffic and public transport fines of more than $11,000. Mr Taha has an intellectual disability.

Under section 160 of the Infringements Act 2006, an offender who receives an infringement notice for a public transport offence and does not pay the fine may be imprisoned by an order of the Court, or the fine may be discharged in whole or in part where the Court is satisfied that the offender has a mental or intellectual impairment or that imprisonment would, in the offender's situation be excessive, disproportionate or unduly harsh. When sentenced, the magistrate did not know that Mr Taha had an intellectual disability, did not waive the fines and sentenced Mr Taha to imprisonment.

The Commission intervened to make submissions on the application of the Charter to the Magistrates' Court and the human rights relevant to the interpretation of section 160 of the Infringements Act 2006, including the right to equality, right to liberty and the right to a fair hearing.

The Supreme Court held that an interpretation of the Infringements Act 2006 in accordance with the Charter and ordinary principles of interpretation Mr Taha's disability to be considered before imprisonment orders were made. It held that the Magistrates' Court was required to make reasonable enquiries to ascertain whether an individual has an intellectual disability or special circumstances. The Supreme Court ordered that the sentencing decision be returned to the Magistrates' Court for reconsideration.

The decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal (see Victorian Toll & Anor v Taha and Anor; State of Victoria v Brookes & Anor – November 2012) and ordered that the sentencing decision be returned to the Magistrates' Court for reconsideration.