Nottingham on bail pending Supreme Court appeal of length of home detention

Dermot Nottingham has had a couple of rare successes in court – The Supreme Court recently granted him leave to appeal the length of his home detention sentence, and he has been granted bail pending that appeal.

But there us some risk with his appeal as there is a possibility that the sentence of home detention would have to be replaced with a sentence of imprisonment. And he failed to get leave to appeal a failed application for habeas corpus.

In 2015 Nottingham was charged on two counts of breach of suppression and five counts of criminal harassment.

After a number of delays he was found guilty by a jury in 2018 and a 24 month prison sentence was calculated. This is the maximum that can be converted to a home detention sentence, so this was changed to 12 months home detention, largely on illness grounds despite the sentence being served in the home from which a lot of the offending had occurred via the Lauda Finem website. This was the maximum length home detention sentence allowed under law.

Nottingham appealed both the conviction and sentence and failed with both appeals.

The Solicitor General also appealed the sentence as inadequate and won, so the original sentence was quashed. A new sentence of 31 months home detention was calculated, but as Nottingham had already served three and a half months home detention before getting bail 7 months was deducted, leaving a 24 month prison sentence. This again was the maximum possible that could be converted to home detention, so a new sentence of 12 months home detention was imposed.

NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZCA 344 [30 July 2019]

Nottingham appealed this new sentence at the Supreme Court, claiming that the maximum home detention sentence available was 12 moths and he would effectively serve 15 and a half months home detention.

DERMOT GREGORY NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZSC 144 [12 December 2019]

He then went back to the Supreme Court and was granted a recall and leave to appeal.

 DERMOT GREGORY NOTTINGHAM v R [2020] NZSC 23 [20 March 2020]

He went back to the Supreme Court seeking bail. This was heard on 24 April.

Bail is opposed by the Crown on a number of bases. The key submissions can be summarised as follows. First, it is said that the appeal has no merit. This submission relies primarily on the proposition that the previous sentence was of no effect once quashed by the Court of Appeal and also on the fact that the time served was taken into account by that Court. On this basis, the sentence imposed was lawful.

We accept the submission for the Crown that the application for bail should be treated as an application for bail pending determination of the sentence appeal. It is therefore necessary to decide whether a grant of bail is in the interests of justice.

We consider that test is met primarily because there is a risk that Mr Nottingham’s sentence appeal would otherwise be rendered nugatory. The point of Mr Nottingham’s appeal is to establish he could not lawfully be required to serve more than 12 months’ home detention. It is not disputed that Mr Nottingham has now served 12 months’ home detention.

But “rendered nugatory” is just one possibility.

Second, the submission is that there is no risk that the appeal will be rendered nugatory if bail is not granted. This is essentially because, the Crown says, that if Mr Nottingham succeeds on his appeal then the sentence of home detention would have to be replaced with a sentence of imprisonment.

I wonder if Nottingham considered the possibility that if he succeeded with his appeal against sentence the outcome could be prison. But that’s not certain.

The submission for the Crown that the appeal is not otherwise rendered nugatory relies on the proposition that a sentence of imprisonment would inevitably be imposed on Mr Nottingham should his appeal succeed. But that is not necessarily so. The Court would have the usual powers applicable on a sentence appeal.

Nevertheless there is a risk of an own goal (or own gaol).

But bail was granted pending the hearing of the appeal, with some strict conditions:

  • (c) not to associate or have contact, directly or indirectly, with any of the witnesses who gave evidence for the Crown (or whose evidence was read or admitted by consent) in the District Court trial, other than with written consent from Crown counsel;
  • (d) not to associate or have contact, directly or indirectly, with the victims in the District Court trial (T, C, H, B and M);
  • (e) not to access the Lauda Finem website other than for the purpose of preparing material directly relevant to the appeal;
  • (f) not to post information on, or provide information to be posted on, the Lauda Finem website; and
  • (g) not to post information on, or provide information to be posted on, any website relatable directly or indirectly to the victims in the District Court trial (referred to in (d) above).

Getting bail during Covid lockdown is only a partial reprieve.

Interesting to see the explicit ban on using Lauda Finem. In his trial Nottingham was found to be the primary person responsible for many attack posts on Lauda Finem, but the blog was shut down (via another court action) and a mirror site hasn’t had any new posts for three years.

But the ban also includes ‘any website’ relatable to the offences.

Also:  The proposed habeas corpus appeal

The habeas corpus appeal is essentially brought on the same basis, that is, detention beyond the period of 12 months is unlawful.

The habeas corpus application was dismissed by van Bohemen J on two bases. First, the Judge considered that the respondent in that case had established the lawfulness of the detention because Mr Nottingham was subject to detention under a lawful order of the Court. Second, the Judge found that habeas corpus was not an appropriate remedy where Mr Nottingham was using habeas corpus to pursue his sentence appeal.

We are satisfied that there are no exceptional circumstances to justify a direct appeal to this Court. That is because, as van Bohemen J found, the question Mr Nottingham would have the Court consider is “classically a question for appeal” and Mr Nottingham will have that on 14 May 2020. His position in the interim is preserved by the grant of bail.

So  the application for leave to appeal against the decision declining habeas corpus was dismissed.

Dermot Gregory Nottingham v R

From the High Court judgment:

It is apparent that Mr Nottingham is asking the High Court to hold that the Court of Appeal’s decision to impose a sentence of 12 months’ home imprisonment is wrong in law. That is a matter for appeal. It is well beyond the jurisdiction of this Court.

NOTTINGHAM v DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS [2020] NZHC 332 [28 February 2020]

Nottingham was applying for habeas corpus to the High Court for essentially the same purpose as his concurrent Court of Appeal action (now at the Supreme Court).

The Supreme Court will hear Nottingham’s appeal against the length of his home detention sentence on 14 May 2020.

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4 Comments

  1. Grumpy

     /  1st May 2020

    Interesting, this was a straight out political hit. Lets see what the Supreme Court makes of it.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  1st May 2020

      How do you figure that? He seems to be the sort of guy that gives fat fools a bad name.

      Reply
  2. Gezza

     /  1st May 2020

    Oh for God’s sake. Fingers crossed he ends up doing some bloody porridge.

    Reply

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