Trailblazing magistrate and former lecturer to speak at Southern Cross University

Published 7 April 2003

Ground-breaking magistrate, lawyer and former law lecturer David Heilpern will give a public lecture at Southern Cross University (SCU) this Wednesday, 9 April, at 12 noon.

Mr Heilpern set a precedent in NSW when he threw out a police charge of offensive language against an Aboriginal man for telling a policeman to Œf off‚. He then threw out the accompanying charges of resisting arrest and assaulting police.

The magistrate will speak on this case, as well as some of his more recent decisions relating to sentencing on social security offences, as part of SCU‚s Law School research seminar series.

Mr Heilpern was a senior lecturer in SCU‚s School of Law and Justice for 13 years from 1989 to 2001, before being appointed a magistrate in Dubbo in NSW central west, and then to Bateman‚s Bay on the NSW South Coast, where he is now based.

While working in Dubbo, Mr Heilpern made several landmark decisions concerning the arrest by police as a means of dealing with Indigenous people.

A key area of concern highlighted by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, was the Œcriminalisation‚ of indigenous people through the use of the trio of charges: Œoffensive language, resist arrest and assault police‚.

„In the trial of Lance Carr, Magistrate Heilpern found the use of arrest for a minor offence such as offensive language to be improper, and refused to admit evidence arising out of such an improper arrest to support the further charges of resist arrest and assault,‰ Head of SCU‚s School of Law and Justice, Richard Harris, said.

„This decision was appealed to the NSW Supreme Court, which substantially upheld Mr Heilpern‚s decision last year,‰ Mr Harris said.

„The School of Law and Justice is proud to host this seminar and invites all SCU staff and students, as well as members of the local legal profession and the general public to attend what will no doubt be an entertaining and informative session.

David Heilpern will give a public lecture on Wednesday, 9 April, from 12noon to 2pm, in Y block auditorium at Southern Cross University Lismore campus.

The media are invited to attend but Mr Heilpern is unable to give interviews outside the lecture because of rules governing serving magistrates.

For more information contact: Richard Harris, Head of the School of Law and Justice, SCU Ph: 6620 3109, or Sara Crowe, SCU media unit, Ph: 6620 3144.