Proctor : June 2019
52 PROCTOR | June 2019 Even the sportsmen had to be put down Solicitor Paul Richards, who was admitted in 1973 and retired in 2015, has captured many of the stories, anecdotes and yarns from his work with Indigenous clients in a new book, Adventures with Agitators. Paul began a personal involvement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 1968 and was involved in helping to start the Aboriginal Legal Service in 1972. His career involved battles on behalf of Indigenous clients in the justice system across a broad range of legal issues. The book launch, held earlier this year, was supported by many Indigenous leaders. The following extract, ‘Even the sportsmen had to be put down’, is reproduced with Paul’s permission. BOOK EXTRACT I was so outraged that I ‘lost it’ when I appeared for a Cherbourg Rugby League footballer who came up for sentence for disorderly conduct a few days before the grand final between Cherbourg and Kingaroy. The establishment in the white town of Kingaroy felt a degree of superiority over the black town of Cherbourg and that extended to the sports arena. But during play rules applied equally. My client had been in a minor scuffle in the Murgon pub, forgotten about next day by those involved in it. The usual penalty was $20 and one month to pay (this was about 1980 when petrol was $0.15 per litre; it is now about $1.50 per litre). The magistrate fined him $100 with no time to pay. I was flabbergasted, as this was grossly inconsistent with sentencing standards. I took the client into the interview room outside the court and asked the police to wait while I completed the appeal and bail forms in the court registry (probably about fifteen minutes). One sneering cop replied, “No. Mr Richards, we’ve got the warrant already and the car is waiting to get him to Boggo Road Jail in Brisbane. You won’t get him back for the game on Saturday.” How could they have got a warrant typed and a car on standby within moments of the court finishing unless they’d known what the magistrate was going to do, especially given it was such a substantial departure from the standard penalty? My belief is that the magistrate and the police had planned this in the Kingaroy RSL. That was the town where the magistrate was based and the club where he was known to go drinking. I was so furious that I shoved my hand in my pocket and pulled out $100 (just by chance I had it there, as someone had paid me that day). I shoved it at the police, angrily saying, “Here, take the f***ing money.” They had to let him go. But, as I was leaving the court, a cop handed me a summons for allegedly using obscene language in a public place, namely the interview room, at the moment I gave him the money. I referred that to my own solicitor (as you do), who happened to be Wayne Goss, and he later informed me that the summons had been withdrawn. The interview room was, of course, not a public place and in the circumstances the words used were not obscene. It was a great game of football that weekend. My client starred in a walkover by Cherbourg. But, listening to the Kingaroy radio, you would have thought their team was doing much better than it was. As the game went on, I was getting drinks from the bar. To get to the bar, I had to go through the police lines. The police had to stay near the bar to watch out for any trouble. On each successive visit, I very much enjoyed asking them who they thought was going to win the game. At first, they confidently said Kingaroy would win. As the game progressed, they became more dismissive and I became more assertive of Cherbourg’s dominance. I think I became even cheekier as the day went on. In 2015, that footballer became the mayor of Cherbourg, Arnie Murray. No official complaint was made, the problem being who to complain to. Premier Bjelke-Petersen was the local Member of Parliament, based in Kingaroy. There was no Crime or Misconduct Commission or anything similar in those days. And who would have cared for an aggrieved Aboriginal person anyway? We could complain to the police, about the police, or we could complain to the local Member of Parliament about the police doing what he would have told them to do. The ALS [Aboriginal Legal Service] frequently wrote letters of complaint to the police commissioner. I used to joke that we could paper the walls of the office with the letters of reply, dismissing the complaints in a standard format. As for an appeal? Well, the fine was paid, the conviction insignificant and the prospects of success in proving conspiracy would be difficult and expensive. © Adventures with Agitators, Paul Richards, 2019. BOOKS Title: Adventures with Agitators Author: Paul Richards Publisher: MoshPit Publishing ISBN: 9781922261281 Format: Paperback/319 pages RRP: $39.95 Available at themoshshop.com.au, the Avid Reader Bookshop (Boundary Street, West End) or call 0424 537 282.