Where do criminal defence firms stand on black deaths in custody?

Warwick Korn, Lauren MacDougall and Carly Hydes of Korn MacDougall Legal were included in an important discussion about criminal law firms’ stance on black deaths in custody. The Lawyers Weekly article can be found here:

There are numerous social issues, including deaths in custody, whereby lawyers in the criminal law space can and must lend their professional weight to drive change.

Since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was held, over 430 Indigenous Australians have died in custody across the country, amounting to an average of 15 Indigenous Australia dying per annum, or more than one per month, in custody over the past 29 years.

YFS Legal solicitor Candice Hughes who last year won the Indigenous Lawyer of the Year category at the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards said this issue makes it difficult to be an Indigenous woman, mother, and youth justice lawyer all at once.

But it is in the culture, resilience, strength and pride of our people that drives me every day to be a better mother, community member, and lawyer. I am privileged to be a lawyer, and for me, this comes with a responsibility to advocate for human rights and fight against the injustices committed against all vulnerable people, but particularly our First Nations people, she reflected.

This is why I chose to work in a community legal centre and work directly with our young people. While this issue is personal for me, it is not just an issue for First Nations people. This is a national issue, a national shame.

Indigenous lawyers Teela Reid and Matthew Karakoulakis last week told Lawyers Weekly that unless Australian legal professionals turn up for issues that matter, system change will never occur. Criminal defence lawyers (who are closer to such social issues than those in commercial practices) appear to take a similar approach, acknowledging their unique position to be more forceful in advocating for change.

The stance of lawyers on this issue

Karim + Nicol Lawyers was unequivocal in its proclamation that not enough has been done to address black deaths in custody, calling national statistics on this issue shameful and inexcusable.

Being a firm made up mostly of women from minority groups, we see this as a serious issue entrenched in Australian history, and the undeniable incarceration rates of Indigenous people only serve to highlight that. In NSW, Indigenous people make up 2.8 per cent of the total population yet represent approximately 25 per cent of the prison population, K+N solicitor director Carrie Nicol said.

Korn MacDougall partner Warwick Korn said that his firm is strongly opposed to deaths in custody, with the rates of Indigenous persons dying being of particular concern.

We are trained around the premise that all members of the community are equal in the eyes of the law and that the community, at least in Australia, is a multicultural one. Therefore, to see any institutionalised examples of that equality not being applied is of the deepest concern,” he said.

Armstrong Legal senior associate Trudie Cameron said the rate of Indigenous deaths in custody is appalling: Targeting of Indigenous persons by police, unlawful arrests and excessive use of force [are] an ongoing problem.

What change must occur?

The best outcomes, Ms Nicol said, are achieved when First Nations people are given the power and responsibility to make decisions for their communities, particularly in relation to recidivism and rehabilitation.

Programs such as Justice Reinvestment and the Youth Koori Court have been implemented with great success, however, our firm believes that more positive changes can be made to transform the criminal justice system, she said.

As an Aboriginal woman and criminal defence lawyer, I am particularly interested in advocating for the establishment of Walama Court, led by my colleague and friend Teela Reid. Prisons are not effective in providing the rehabilitation necessary to heal intergenerational trauma and the current system of incarceration is not working for our Aboriginal population.

The Walama Court, Ms Nicol continued, has been designed to divert Aboriginal people away from the criminal justice process and reduce police contact by involving Aboriginal elders in the administration of justice.

Unlike other programs, it would be enshrined in legislation, allowing Aboriginal lore and cultural knowledge into the courts. Funding needs to be diverted from the [police] and towards these community-based solutions, she said.

Other reforms that are needed are wide-ranging and will require significant government funding for the training and education of police officers, Ms Cameron argued, as well as broader policy and legislative updates.

In the short-term, requiring police [body-worn] footage to be permanently turned on, rather than turned on and off at the discretion of the officer is a start. Professional review and disciplinary action should be swift, rather than reviews that presently take months or even years, she said.

Part of the problem on these broader issues, Mr Korn submitted, is that state powers particularly those given to law enforcement bodies “ have reached unprecedented levels, and vigilant protection of fundamental rights and liberties has never been more crucial.

With respect to the [Indigenous] community and their over-representation in the correctional system, our firm believes that advocating for community-based sentences, with a focus on engaging the local community through means such as circle sentencing, would reduce the numbers of [Indigenous] people needlessly entering custody,” he said.

Echoing Ms Cameron’s thoughts, Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia principal Jimmy Singh remarked there also needs to be a greater sense of police and prison officials accountability by ensuring they have regard to recommendations of the 1991 royal commission.

“Courts must be pressed to improve that accountability through general deterrence by way of awarding damages against those authorities who breach. Independent bodies such as the [ombudsman] must have a greater role in enforcing and keeping a closer eye on the implementation of these recommendations across all levels”, he outlined.

“Threats of reducing Aboriginal Legal Services funding [are] also a major setback because the ALS are the main source with the incentive and resources to pursue legal proceedings against police and prison authorities.”

The role of these firms in advocating for change

K+N is acutely aware, Ms Nicol said of the greater systemic issues affecting its clients and thus see its role as a firm to support causes that work to address inequities.

We demonstrate our support by engaging in the community, showing support through protest, and offering pro bono support and legal services to those assisting the cause. This year we have continued to work with Community Northern Beaches to represent and assist their homeless clients on a pro bono basis, we have participated in and assisted those participating in the Black Lives Matter protest, we have volunteered our legal representation for those facing charges for protesting against the coal mines; but overall we just try to show up for and across important issues, she listed.

“Our firm takes the view that criminal defence firms should take a public stance on important social, political and cultural issues. We are often the only voice that will be heard for our clients – that is the privilege of working in this profession – however, equally we must recognise that privilege and use it to advance our clients position wherever we can.”

All criminal defence firms, Mr Singh espoused, have a duty to provide greater access to justice and increase community understanding of current legal, social, political and cultural issues. As criminal defence lawyers we regularly take a public stance in court, and we do this to ensure that our client’s rights are protected, and not abused “ being the same essential legal rights we all have,” he proclaimed.

One of the key roles for criminal defence firms, Korn MacDougall partner Lauren MacDougall explained, is advocating for protection of an individual’s civil liberties and ensuring every citizen is provided due process.

“This often involves promoting the regulation of law enforcement bodies to act within the scope of their powers. When law enforcement bodies avoid strict compliance with legislative provisions of this type, lawyers and accused individuals are often confined to the courtroom for a remedy. This is due to the low rate of investigations within the LECC who are tasked with disciplining police misconduct (only 2 per cent of complaints were investigated in 2019). Firms should absolutely take a stance on issues such as this because it is our responsibility to ensure that the civil liberties of individuals are protected,” she said.

A secondary role for defence firms, Ms MacDougall continued, is to share their experiences working within the courts and with the community.

“As criminal lawyers we are at the front lines to see the types of matters which repeatedly arise and form trends which we are then able to observe and comment on for the benefit of the wider community. Quite simply, once we are able to observe trends or issues, we are then able to put a spotlight on these for the community,” she said.

“The community cannot respond accordingly to issues if they are unaware of them. This concept can also be applied in the inverse when we see legislation enforcement which is inconsistent with the values of our community.”

How the broader legal profession can help

Pledging support is important, Ms Hughes mused, but it is “certainly not enough” and law firms need to be doing more, she said.

“Pro bono programs are vital, but those programs also need to specifically direct this support to First Nations issues and people. This support can also be demonstrated through support of Indigenous legal services and community legal centres -all of which struggle and are restricted by funding. The law firms (and legal profession as a whole) need to work in equal partnership and engage in meaningful collaboration with our First Nations people, because no decision about our people should be made without our people,” she detailed.

“We are in the best position to make decisions in this regard. While we are a strong people with a strong voice, we are only still 3 per cent of the population – it is important that law firms develop strong genuine allies to First Nations peoples and communities.

“I believe law firms have a social responsibility to advocate for change, including some of the changes noted below.”

There is so much that individual lawyers can do to raise awareness of important issues pertaining to Indigenous Australians, Ms Cameron argued, “whether it’s drafting submissions in relation to proposed reforms, sharing messages on social media platforms or stopping a friend, family member or colleague and pointing out that something they’ve said is not okay and is, either intentionally or unintentionally, degrading, disrespectful or racist towards Indigenous Australians”.

“Volunteering or working on a [pro bono] basis for non-for-profits, community legal centres and/or the Aboriginal Legal Service is an effective way to lend hands-on support. Membership of societies and associations responsible for advocating for change is also helpful,” she added.

The legal profession should be advocating for the embedding of Indigenous knowledge into the law school curriculum in a meaningful way, Ms Hughes added.

“There has for too long now also been a conversation about making cultural capability training a compulsory element of the CDP program. This has yet to happen. The legal profession should also advocate for reform in terms of police investigations and complaints – police should not be investigating police,” she posited.

“Further, to advocate for an independent investigative body to conduct investigations into Indigenous deaths in custody. The legal profession should also advocate for the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the ALRC findings in 2018 and the Queensland Productivity Commission inquiry in 2019. Custody notifications should also be legislated with consequences for failing to comply, just as there are consequences for a First Nations person for failing to comply with a police direction.”

Ultimately, lawyers have a “heightened awareness of our obligations to uphold the law”, Ms Nicol submitted.

“This can be difficult at times when we can also see laws that are unjust, or that are used disproportionately towards particular groups of people. This is where we need to use our knowledge and voice to advocate for change,” she said.

“As defence lawyers we are our client’s voice, and often their only voice. We cannot underestimate or forget the privilege of that position, and with that privilege comes a huge responsibility.”

It is the obligation of all lawyers, Korn MacDougall associate Carly Hydes said in agreement, to work together cohesively to effect legislative change.

“This means that the profession must keep pace with community changes and expectations and use our understanding of Australia’s complex systems of law to prevent reactionary legislation which may have unintended and far-reaching consequences. When we overlook this responsibility is when injustice occurs. we have a position at the front lines to respond to these situations and to take things further where we have an issue,” she said.

“Quite simply if not us, then who?”


Body modifier Howard Rollins not guilty of helping to mutilate woman’s labia with ‘branding iron’

On 26 May 2020 Howard Rollins was found Not Guilty of aiding and abetting a Central Coast based “body modifier” in the removal of the labia minora of an adult female complainant.

There was never any suggestion by the Prosecution that our client played a part in the physical procedure. The complainant consented to the procedure and had engaged in several other voluntary body modifications previously.

Our client had serious concerns about this “body modifier” and reported his conduct to the police and other agencies on numerous occasions prior to this procedure. Those agencies took no action at the time. Despite our clients efforts to blow the whistle and expose this behaviour, he was charged.

We are so pleased we were able to achieve this result for him after a very difficult few years. Lauren MacDougall of this office worked with Margaret Cunneen SC to achieve this outcome.

The Daily Telegraph published the following article about the case:

World-renowned body modifier Howard Rollins – better known as Luna Cobra – has been acquitted of helping another modifier mutilate a woman’s genitalia with a ‘branding iron’ in 2015.

A famed eyeball tattoo artist is relieved he was cleared of helping to mutilate a woman’s genitals, but the American says he’s disappointed he had to endure the stigma of such a heinous crime for years.

Howard Rollin’s trial heard stomach-churning evidence of body parts in jars, the smell of burning flesh under a branding iron and an “underground cult” of body modification.

Rollins, better known as Luna Cobra, was accused of coaching another prominent modifier Brendan Russell while he performed an illegal labia “excision” on a woman using a cauterising tool five years ago.

Russell – better known as BSlice – has pleaded not guilty to the mutilation at a Newcastle parlour in January 2015, and will face trial later this year.

Rollins pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting the mutilation and faced a judge alone trial this month.

On Tuesday Judge Ian Bourke found the 42-year-old American not guilty, saying “there were a number of inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence, some of them significant.”

The judge said it was highly probable Rollins coached Russell through the surgery, but he couldn’t ignore the woman’s possible motive to frame him after she was blacklisted from the industry.

During the trial the woman said Rollins instructed BSlice to “cut and cauterise” as he burned off her labia minora during explosive and contradictory evidence.

“I know my vagina like the back of my hand (Rollins) was there, in the flesh, in between my legs next to Brendan, injecting me and burning away my labia,” the woman told the court.

But defence barrister Margaret Cunneen SC said: “we only have the word of a liar – a proven liar – to implicate Howard Rollins.”

The complainant later handed a jar containing her labia to police saying the men used a “branding iron” to do the operation.

But when asked if she’d smelled burning flesh the complainant said no, adding: “my head’s not in my vagina”.

Judge Bourke said the woman was either being untruthful or couldn’t remember a smell due to the effects of the valium she was given.

The woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, told the court body modification was like an “underground cult” and she was eventually excluded from the community.

One of Russell’s former employees told the court the woman kept pressing Russell to fix her labia for a year, until he banned her from getting any further procedures.

The woman told the worker: “you have ruined my whole life today. Body modifications is a huge part of my life. This is terribly unfair, you have crushed my passion,” the court heard.

Witnesses said over a year the complainant had paid a small fortune on many more body modifications, yet testified she never went back for another procedure.

Another customer who gave evidence felt Rollins had been “set up” for Russell’s alleged crime, and Judge Bourke said the complainant had a “possible motive to wrongly or falsely” implicate him.

Rollins’ solicitor Lauren MacDougall said for two years her client’s reputation has been tainted by allegations of a crime that parliament enacted to target the traditional genital mutilation of girls aged under 15.

“The irony is that long before he was charged it was Mr Rollins who made overtures to law enforcement authorities about the need for better regulation of the body modification industry,” she told The Daily Telegraph outside court.

In August Rollins will apply for the Crown to pay his legal fees, arguing it was not reasonable for the prosecution to be brought against him in the first place.

One of Russell’s former employees told the court she overheard Rollins warn he was “taking things too far” during a telephone fight months after the complainant’s procedure.

“He is going to ruin the whole mod industry by taking these risks. He will end up in jail one day,” Rollins allegedly said.

Rollins says he blew the whistle on Russell in 2016, contacting health authorities and even police with the help of another tattooist.

The pair were worried, the court heard, that someone may die.

Will the Covid-19 social distancing fines stack up in Court?

Lauren MacDougall appeared on Channel 9 News on 13 April 2020 in relation to Public Health (Covid-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 (the Order).

Asked to comment on whether the fines will stack up in Court, Ms MacDougall noted that the Order is deliberately flexible in order to encourage the community to behave with common sense and police to exercise their discretion in a sensible way when issuing fines.

It is likely that the Court will also adopt a common sense approach when determining whether or not a fine should be upheld.               

What should you do if you get a fine?

If you are issued with a fine for an alleged breach of the Order which came into force on 31 March 2020, you can:

a) Pay the Fine; or

b) Elect to have the matter heard in Court

For more information on what each option involves, please do not hesitate to contact a Solicitor from Korn MacDougall Legal.

Here is the link to the Channel 9 story: https://lnkd.in/gyQb4gU

Warwick Korn named as Vice President of Defence Lawyers NSW

Korn MacDougall Legal is honoured to have one of its founding Partners, Mr Warwick Korn, named as Vice President of Defence Lawyers NSW.

Defence Lawyers NSW is an incorporated Association for Defence Lawyers practising in NSW. It aims:

1: To improve all aspects of the operation of the Criminal Justice System in NSW

2: To protect and improve the rights of Citizens accused of crimes

3: To Improve the conditions of Criminal Defence Lawyers in the discharge of their duties

In these recent times of unprecedented state powers, Korn MacDougall Legal is proud to stand alongside Defence Lawyers NSW in the vigilant protection of NSW Citizens fundamental rights and liberties.

Korn MacDougall Legal awarded the Client Choice Award for Best Criminal Law Firm 2020

We are thrilled to have been awarded the Client Choice Award for best criminal law firm 2020. Thank you to all our clients that took the time to leave such positive feedback. This award reinforces that the hard work of our team certainly does not go unnoticed.

Thank you to Beaton Research + Consulting, who managed the independent research behind the Awards.

The full list of 2020 Awards can be found here: https://clientchoiceawards.net/client-choice-awards-2020-winners

Covid-19: What you need to know

Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 what are my rights and responsibilities?

On 31 March 2020 the Australian government released emergency legislation that places stringent conditions upon the movement of individuals during the COVID-19 crisis, but the question is what does this mean for you?

What happens if I leave the house?

Section 10 creates an offence for any individual that fails to comply with the Ministerial Direction to stay in your home, unless you have a reasonable excuse. This means that if you are found to be out of your home without being able to provide a reasonable excuse, you could face up to 6 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $11,000 or in some circumstances both.

Schedule 1 provides a list of 16 reasonable excuses for leaving your home, broadly extending from obtaining food, exercising and travelling to work if you cannot work from home to escaping the risk of harm. It also covers children that are living between two households.

Reasonable excuses to be out of your house:

  1. obtaining food or other goods or services for the personal needs of the household or other household purposes (including for pets) and for vulnerable persons
  2. travelling for the purposes of work if the person cannot work from the person’s place of residence
  3. travelling for the purposes of attending childcare (including picking up or dropping another person at childcare)
  4. travelling for the purposes of facilitating attendance at a school or other educational institution if the person attending the school or institution cannot learn from the person’s place of residence
  5. exercising
  6. obtaining medical care or supplies or health supplies or fulfilling carer’s responsibilities
  7. attending a wedding or a funeral in the circumstances where there are no more than 5 people in attendance  (including the person conducting the service)
  8. moving to a new place of residence (including a business moving to new premises) or between different places of residence of the person or inspecting a potential new place of residence
  9. providing care or assistance (including personal care) to a vulnerable person or providing emergency assistance
  10. donating blood
  11. undertaking any legal obligations
  12. accessing public services (whether provided by Government, a private provider or a non-Government organisation), including (a) social services, and (b) employment services, and (c) domestic violence services, and (d) mental health services, and (e) services provided to victims (including as victims of crime)
  13. for children who do not live in the same household as their parents or siblings or one of their parents or siblings–continuing existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children or siblings
  14. for a person who is a priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order going to the person’s place of worship or providing pastoral care to another person
  15. avoiding injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
  16. for emergencies or compassionate reasons.

Who can I leave my house with?

You are only permitted to be outside your house with one other person unless they are part of your household, such as your housemates or immediate family. For example, this does not mean that you may leave the house with your housemates and then meet an additional person.

What is an “essential gathering” ? what happens if I use public transport?

Schedule 2 provides a list of 14 “essential gatherings” that may occur and will not attract penalty.

  1. a gathering at an airport that is necessary for the normal business of the airport
  2. a gathering for the purposes of or related to transportation, including in vehicles or at stations, platforms or stops or other public transportation facilities
  3. a gathering at a hospital or other medical or health service facility that is necessary for the normal business of the facility
  4. a gathering for the purposes of emergency services
  5. a gathering at a prison, correctional facility, youth justice centre or other place of custody
  6. a gathering at a disability or aged care facility that is necessary for the normal business of the facility
  7. a gathering at a court or tribunal
  8. a gathering at Parliament for the purpose of its normal operations
  9. a gathering at a supermarket, market that predominately sells food, grocery store or shopping centre (but not a retail store in a shopping centre other than a supermarket, market that predominately sells food or grocery store) that is necessary for the normal business of the supermarket, market, store or centre
  10. a gathering at a retail store (other than a supermarket, market that predominately sells food or grocery store) that is necessary for the normal business of the store
  11. a gathering at an office building, farm, factory, warehouse or mining or construction site that is necessary for the normal operation of the tenants within the building, farm, warehouse, factory or site
  12. a gathering at a school, university or other educational institution or child care facility that is necessary for the normal business of the school, university, institution or facility but does not include a school event that involves members of the community in addition to staff and students
  13. a gathering at a hotel, motel or other accommodation facility that is necessary for the normal operation of accommodation services at that hotel, motel or other facility
  14. a gathering at an outdoor space where 2 or more persons may be present for the purposes of transiting through the place Example, Pitt Street Mall.

However, you should be mindful of the social distancing when in a public space, which means maintaining a space of 1.5 metres between each other.

What happens if I own a business?

Section 10 also makes it an offence for Corporations that fail to comply with the direction, including the closure of premises. Corporations face fines of up to $55,000, with an additional fine of $27,500 incurred for each day that the offence continues.

What to do if stopped by police?

If stopped by police, the burden of providing an acceptable reasonable excuse falls upon you.  The police have the power to issue on the spot fines of $1000 for failure to provide an excuse, or in aggravated situations such as repeated non-compliance, the Police can place you before the Court where you may face imprisonment. The Courts also have the power to add an additional fine of $5,500 for each day that the offence continues.

To a large extent the power of the police is discretionary and if you experience difficulties with the Police or are issued with a fine, do not hesitate to contact one of our lawyers for advice on the interpretation of the reasonable excuses.

Movie star Yunxiang Gao found not guilty

On 19 March 2020 Yunxiang Gao was found Not Guilty by a Jury in relation to multiple charges of sexual assault. Our client lost his reputation, his career and was forced to spend 2 years away from his home in a foreign country under strict bail conditions. Some of the Jury broke down in tears as their verdict was delivered. Mr Gao has a long way to go to rebuild his life but we are so pleased we were able to achieve this result for him after a very difficult few years. Warwick Korn and Abdul Karim Tlais of this office worked with Murugan Thangaraj SC and John Korn of Counsel to achieve this outcome.

The Australian published the following article about the case:

Chinese movie star Yunxiang Gao and producer Jing Wang have both been found not guilty on a raft of charges they took it in turns to rape a Chinese-born Sydney woman at a Sydney wrap party in March 2018 the early hours of March 27

A jury in Sydney NSW District Court took just one day to deliver their not guilty verdict on all charges against the two Chinese film industry heavyweights whose careers were immediately destroyed after they were charged with gang raping the woman in the early hours of March 27, 2018.

The two men and the legal team – even members of the jury – broke down in tears as the verdict was delivered.

The woman had claimed she had been held against her will in Mr Wangs room at Sydney’s Shangri La hotel after the three had spent the night at a wrap party following a film shoot for Gaos Chinese TV series, Love in ­Aranya.

Both men were arrested days later and have been forced to remain in Australia since their arrest two years ago, with Wang spending the first 22 months behind bars until he was finally granted bail after the first trial against the pair ended in a hung jury in November.

Obviously its an emotional victory, everyone was crying, Rick Korn, Mr Gaos defence lawyer, told The Australian.

Its been two years, two trials, what its put his family through, what its put him through. He can now go home to his family.

These men have been through so much, a one member of the defence team said.

That two men with impeccable characters can be banged up in a Sydney prison, and they cant speak English, on the word of a woman who spent the entire night kissing Wang at a karaoke bar.

On the night of the alleged rape, the woman had been out partying with Gao, Wang and 30 Chinese crew members in ­Sydney after a week-long filmshoot of Gao’s hugely popular TV series, Love in Aranya.

CCTV showed the woman and Wang hugging and kissing at a Sydney karaoke bar and later outside the hotel, just minutes before the alleged rape victim went up to Wang’s room. The woman gave evidence, however, that she had repeatedly tried to push Wang away.

Summing up, Wang’s barrister, Margaret Cunneen SC, said the woman’s story was all “lies” part of her “ever shifting” account of what happened that night. Ms Cunneen said it was the woman’s husband who had called police.

Instead of honesty…she threw Mr Wang and Mr Gao under the bus, Ms Cunneen said.

Gao’s barrister, Murugan Thangaraj SC, told the jury the woman had clearly been star struck by Gao, and had only complained to police because she had been under pressure from her suspicious husband.

Mr Thangaraj said the woman had given “multiple versions” of what happened in the hotel room from the time she had arrived home at 4.45am and was confronted by a suspicious husband demanding to know where she had been all night.

He said the husband did not believe her answers, including her initial cover story that Wang and another man, not Gao, had forced her to stay at the hotel for a late dinner.

When the woman’s husband told her “don’t lie”, “don’t lie”, he said, the woman realised she had been aught out.

It was the husband who had contacted the police that morning, he said, telling the jury he could feel something was wrong, even though the woman at that stage had not claimed she had been raped.

Mr Thangaraj said it was from that point on that the woman’s serious lies and inventions would begin to escalate and just “grew over time”.

In all, he said, the woman gave five separate statements to police, different versions again to Australian crew members on the production, and had continued to lie and “embellish” under cross examination at the trial.

The woman claimed she had felt “intimidated” by Wang’s unwanted attentions at a karaoke club that night, where she had partied with Wang, Gao and other film crew members before joining Wang in his hotel room at 2.33am.

But Mr Thangaraj said her claims she had repeatedly tried to push Wang away had been laid bare by CCTV video of the woman and Wang “kissing passionately and intimately at the club and later in front of the hotel.

“She hadn’t seen the CCTV footage (before the trial) so she told police whatever she wanted and then confronted with the evidence she gave these self serving answers,” Mr Thangaraj said.

“Given she kissed Mr Wang like that at the club do you believe her evidence that she refused Mr Wang’s kiss in the privacy of his room?

When she got to that room and Gao arrived it was a natural progression… and the complainant was clearly most interested in Mr Gao.”

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity with this handsome icon star, she took it,” Mr Thangaraj SC said.

“She might regret that decision now, she may even have regretted it the moment she left the room. But she wanted to be with Mr Gao, she made her choice.”

Man at centre of gel gun controversy finally cleared

In a New South Wales first, the idea of Gel Ball Blasters fitting the definition of firearms under the firearms act has been successfully challenged, setting a precedent for these items in the future.

Mr Towner runs the business Armoured Heaven, a seller and online distributor of toy guns and other memorabilia and collectable items. After 7 years of trading Mr Towner was charged in March 2017 for the possession and sale of firearms. After 3 years of this case being before the court, It took the Jury only 26 minutes to return verdicts of not guilty to 66 charges acquitting Mr Bradley Towner of all firearms offences

Michael Korn of Korn MacDougall Legal and John Korn, Barrister, appeared for Mr Towner.

The Western Weekender published the following story:

After a three year legal battle, the owner of the toy gun empire Armoured Heaven has finally been cleared of firearms charges.

The Weekender first reported on Brad Towner story in March last year, where he detailed how a small change in the Firearms Act brought his entire life crashing down, ruining his marriage and draining him financially.

Mr Towner established his toy gun business in 2010 and began selling gel blasters in 2014.

After selling the gel blasters without trouble for seven years, everything changed in March 2017, when his business was raided, his stock seized and he was told he was facing potentially 14 years of imprisonment.

Since then Mr Towner has fought hard, refusing plea deals and pleading his innocence.

It feels pretty great, I finally had a decent nights sleep and I don’t have that dreading thought of is everything I am fighting for a complete waste of time because realistically I could be sentenced and go to jail, he said.

We fought all the way through, we didn’t bail out, we struck to our convictions and we pushed forward out of pure perseverance.

Now it’s time to recover, the financial burden has been a lot, we only just made it

Mr Towner was being charged with possession of three or more firearms, possess unauthorised firearms, possess ammunition without holding a license, permit or authority, possess or use a prohibited weapon without a permit and carry on activities of firearm dealer without being licensed.

As a result, he was forced to refund $40,000 worth of stock including postage and had $30,000 – $50,000 value of stock seized.

He has now applied for this stock to be returned.

As it stands the NSW law states that gel blasters are classified as an airgun or firearm and that gel balls are classified as ammunition.

Mr Towner has since moved from Penrith to Queensland, which does not uphold these regulations, so he can begin to financially recover and continue to rebuild his toy empire to its former glory.

Mr Towner posted this photo on his Business Facebook page following his Not Guilty verdict. Pictured with Michael Korn

Charges dropped against executives in corporate kickback scandal

** Our client approved this post

On 17 September 2019, the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew all charges against our client in relation to one of Australia’s biggest corporate scandals after serious disclosure issues emerged in the prosecution case just one week into a 13 week trial.

To read more about this: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/charges-dropped-against-executives-in-corporate-kickback-scandal-20190916-p52rsb.html

This was a big moment for our client, who was pleased to have been vindicated, but has had to endure 4.5 years of the stigma of being an accused person caught up in the criminal justice system.

This great outcome was very much a team effort.

How dispute over a sign turned deadly

On Monday 3 September 2018 in the Downing Centre District Court our client was sentenced for her involvement in a shooting at Ingleburn in 2016. She was initially charged with murder, but after successful negotiations, she pleaded guilty to significantly less serious charges and received a term of imprisonment with 2 years and 2 months non-parole. She will be released from prison next month – a great outcome in circumstances where she was previously facing a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life.

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