Brisbane District Court Judge Catherine Muir finds Richlands Magistrate John Smith’s jail sentence excessive
A WOMAN who was jailed for more than four months for stealing baby formula and breaching bail has been freed by a judge, who said a magistrate’s sentence was excessive.
District Court Judge Catherine Muir said the Richlands magistrate “completely lost sight’’ of the woman’s overall criminality.
On March 20, Magistrate John Smith sentenced Tina Kathleen Moran to 42 days for the bail offence, then ordered her to serve an extra three months’ jail for stealing.
Ms Moran, 49, who did not have a lawyer representing her when she pleaded guilty, had repeatedly begged him not to send her to jail.
When a solicitor for Ms Moran appeared before Judge Muir on June 13, to apply for bail pending an appeal, the judge raised her concerns about the sentence.
The judge said the appeal needed to be heard as soon as possible, as Ms Moran had already served 84 days in jail, and she proceeded to hear it immediately.
Judge Muir found the magistrate’s reasons for sentence were “replete with errors’’.
“I say that conscious of the huge workload that magistrates have in regional courts and I observe, too that this sentence was done in the afternoon of, no doubt, a very busy day,’’ she said.
Moran, 49, was not represented by a lawyer when she pleaded guilty and was sentenced.
The court heard that she had gone to Woolworths at Inala, on July 11, removed two tins of baby formula, worth $50, from the shelves, put them in her bag and walked out of the store.
A short time later she returned to the store, produced a receipt from a previous purchase and unsuccessfully tried to obtain a refund.
The court heard Moran was on parole at the time of the stealing, she had a criminal history for vagrant-type and some dishonesty offences and for failing to appear in court.
She also had $7800 in unpaid fines.
Moran said she had breached bail by previously failing to appear in court because her brother had died.
“Please sir, I don’t want to go to jail, please,’’ Moran repeatedly said to the magistrate, saying the stealing had been “just stupid’’.
“It was unsophisticated offending,’’ Judge Muir said.
She said the magistrate must not have taken into account that a prison sentence should only be a last resort.
“There was no evidence before him or submissions about the appellant’s personal circumstances and … no submissions in relation to the sentence imposed for the offences before him,’’ Judge Muir said.
“The magistrate, in my view, placed too much weight on the appellant’s criminal history and not enough weight on the low level of criminality of the overall offending.
“This resulted in the imposition of an excessive sentence.’’
Judge Muir re-sentenced Moran to 42 days in jail for the bail breach plus another 42 days for the stealing, but said the 84 days had already been served.
The judge ordered Moran to be released that day.