Maher v The Queen [2021] NSWDC 212

The appellant had been caught using his mobile phone while driving, and the interception led him to be charged with the offence, as well as other charges of hinder and assault police. At the Magistrates Court he argued that the court had no jurisdiction to try him as the Aboriginal people of Australia had never ceded sovereignty to the Crown. Magistrate Girotto applied the decisions of the High Court in Walker v NSW (1994) 182 CLR 45Mabo v. Queensland (No.2) (1992) 175 CLR 1 and Coe v. The Commonwealth (1993) 8 ALJR 110 and he was subsequently convicted. 

He appealed the decision in Maher v The Queen [2021] NSWDC 212 on the same grounds, demanding that the Governor of New South Wales and the Governor General produce evidence to prove that there was a letter of consent given by Captain Cook to the Crown of England stating that the Aboriginal people gave up their sovereignty and rights to their land Australia. Haesler SC DCJ noted that similarly to Ross Bradley in Bradley v The Crown [2020] QCA 252, he appealed to the District Court, notwithstanding his assertion that the appeal process had been established by the laws he said did not apply to him.

His Honour held that Magistrate Girotto made no error of law in applying the authority of the High Court to reject the appellant’s contentions, and reiterated he was bound to apply the same principles of law, also citing the more recent decision in Love v Commonwealth of Australia; Thoms v Commonwealth of Australia [2020] HCA 3 where Gaegler J noted (at 102) that:

“Australian courts before and after Mabo v Queensland [No 2], as well as in the reasoning in Mabo itself, have consistently rejected the existence of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander sovereignty.”

Haesler SC DCJ held that Aboriginal people are subject to the laws of the Commonwealth and of the States or Territories in which they respectively reside, that the parliaments have legislative competence to regulate or affect the rights of Aboriginal people, and it is not in any way subject to their acceptance, adoption, request or consent, and dismissed the notion that sovereignty adverse to the Crown resides in the Aboriginal people. 

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