The Queen v Kevin Buzzacott [2004] ACTSC 89

In The Queen v Kevin Buzzacott [2004] ACTSC 89 the defendant was committed for trial in relation to an allegation of theft. It was alleged that he removed a bronze Australian Coat of Arms from a pillar at the front of old Parliament House, and took it to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.  The principal argument was that the court lacks jurisdiction to deal with him because of his status as an Aboriginal Australian. It was further asserted that the trial could not proceed without bias if presided over by any non-Aboriginal Australian judge, and only Aboriginal Elders could become jurors in the trial.  It was asserted that only an international judge should hear the case.

Citing the relevant High Court decisions on these matters, the court held that a person of Aboriginal descent is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts in the same manner as any other person, and that the submissions that the court has no jurisdiction to proceed to trial on the matter have no substance.  The court further noted:

“Whatever argument the accused may have as to whether or not the conduct of policy towards Aboriginal Australians by successive governments, Commonwealth State or Territory, amounts to genocide, whether as understood under international law or as established now as a domestic offence under a law of the Commonwealth, this Court cannot bring into question the basic principle of law underlying its own existence that there is but one sovereignty over the geographic entity of Australia and that the exercise of that sovereignty is governed by the Constitution of Australia, so that in the case of an offence allegedly committed within the Australian Capital Territory, this Court has jurisdiction to try the case no matter what the racial or ethnic origin of the accused. It should be noted that, although traditionally legal doctrines relating to the acquisition of sovereignty in Australia refer to the acquisition of sovereignty by the Crown, more recent pronouncements of the High Court make it clear that the ultimate source of the sovereignty is the consent of the people of Australia.”

The defendant sought leave to appeal this decision in Kevin Buzzacott v The Queen [2005] ACTCA 7 but the application was dismissed.

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