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R v Walker


[1979] CCA 83


C.A. No. 176 of 1979






(Copyright in this transcript is vested in the Crown. Copies thereof must not be made or sold without the written authority of the Chief Court Reporter, Court Reporting Bureau.)








MR. JUSTICE D.M. CAMPBELL: The Attorney-General appeals against the sentence of six months imprisonment imposed by a District Court Judge upon the respondent, Denis Bruce Walker, who pleaded guilty on 27 July this year to a charge of unlawfully wounding. His Honour Judge Loewenthal ordered that this sentence be served concurrently with two other sentences imposed by him which were also to be served concurrently. The other sentences were imposed for offences under the Crimes Act to which the respondent had likewise pleaded guilty. These offences were obstructing persons performing services for the Commonwealth, in one case by violence and, in the other case, by threats. The sentence imposed for each Commonwealth offence was 18 months' imprisonment. However, the learned judge directed that the respondent be released on a two-year good behaviour bond after serving five months of those sentences.

All the offences occurred on 23 April within the space of a few hours. They were committed in public offices, first, at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs at 24 Little Edward Street, Brisbane, and then at the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs at 294 Adelaide Street. The person wounded was Mr. Hugh Patterson, the project officer employed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, who was attacked by the respondent with a paper bodkin on returning to his office after lunch.

The account given to the Court was more or less as follows: The respondent was about two feet from Mr. Patterson who turned around and felt a stabbing sensation in his chest. He said, “I've got you.” At that time Mr. Patterson noticed that the respondent' had a paper bodkin in his right hand; he observed some blood on his own shirt, and he swore at the respondent. Meanwhile, the respondent was waving the paper bodkin in front of him in the direction of Mr. Patterson quite close to his face. He said, “I have taken over. Get in your office and sit down.” Mr. Patterson hesitated for a few minutes and the respondent slashed at him with the weapon stripping him along the left side of the face. Mr. Patterson picked up his briefcase which he had dropped and went into his office and sat down. The respondent followed him and then moved back into the main general office. Mr. Patterson got up to attempt to move out of his office and the respondent said, “I have told you to sit down and stay there. I have taken over.” A few minutes later he said, “You're the bloke I have to beat.” Later Mr. Patterson said to the respondent, “Denis, in the time I have known you I have never done anything behind your back. Any contact I have had with you has always been face to face.” At that stage the respondent had put the paper bodkin into his hip pocket. A little later on Mr. Patterson attempted to get himself a cup of coffee and was told to sit down again by a woman who was there with the respondent whose name was Carol Duncan. She was asked by the respondent to get a cup of coffee for Mr. Patterson and she did so. On several occasions the respondent asked where Kevin Bourke was. Some little time later Mr. Patterson got up to walk out of his office and said to the respondent, “I am going over there to get a file out of the cabinet in the corner”, which he did. As he returned to his office, the respondent began to walk around the general office area tipping over files, pushing telephones onto the floor and upsetting filing desks and chairs. He went into Mr. Bourke's office and started throwing files and manuscripts onto the floor, and he pushed phones onto the floor also. Mr. Patterson picked up a telephone and dialed 000 and the respondent came out of Mr. Bourke's office and said to the woman Duncan, “Is he ringing the police?” She said, “Yes.” The respondent then came into Mr. Patterson's office and waving the bodkin at him said, “The desk isn't going to save you. I told you I am going to beat you.” Mr. Patterson picked up a chair to protect himself and the respondent made several stabbing motions at him with the bodkin and indeed made contact with Mr. Patterson's nose and his left arm. At this stage Mr. Hurlihy walked into the office and Mr. Patterson called out to him for assistance. The respondent started to move backwards out of the office waving the bodkin in a sideways motion. Then the respondent and the woman Duncan went down the corridor and pushed the lift button and waited for the lift. Mr. Patterson went to the entrance door of the office and said to the respondent, “You have done your dash this time, Denis.” The respondent replied, “Pretty good, eh, Bernie? I have showed you who is boss.”

The wounds that Mr. Patterson sustained were not very serious. He had a one millimetre abrasion in the dorsum of the nose. There was a superficial scratch on his face extending from the left ear to the upper lip. There was a puncture wound on the flexor surface of the left wrist which did not involve any blood vessels or tendons or nerves, and there were small abrasions to the upper right abdominal wall. The puncture wound to the left wrist did pierce the true skin and that is the wound which is the subject of the indictment.

The persons who are alleged in the indictment to have been obstructed in performing their duties were Mr. Patterson and Mr. O'Rourke, the Commonwealth Regional Director.

The account of the incident involving Mr. O'Rourke is briefly as follows: Mr. O'Rourke was on the telephone when the respondent arrived. He came into his office and said, “I am here to do something about it as the department has not done its job properly since the change of Federal Government.” The respondent continued, “Have you heard about what happened in the area office?” Mr. O'Rourke replied, “I have. Why are you so upset?” The respondent reached into his right-hand pocket and produced what Mr. O'Rourke described as a cutting knife, like a blade used to cut lino or similar material: The blade extended about one inch. The respondent said, “What happened to Bernie Patterson will happen to you.”, and added that he would not be able to jump out of the way as quickly as Patterson had been able to as Patterson was a younger man. The respondent said, “I have respect for you but you have to be the victim. You will be unable to escape.” Mr. O'Rourke said, “If you respect me, why are you doing this? Tell me the real reason.” At this point the intercom on the office desk buzzed and the respondent said, “Don't answer that.” Mr. O'Rourke reached for the intercom and one of the women who were there with the respondent said, “Don't. This is serious.” Mr. O'Rourke did not answer the phone. He asked the respondent what he wanted. The respondent said that he wanted Mr. O'Rourke's full backing to support him as a revolutionary. The Commonwealth police then arrived and subsequently interviewed the respondent.

The upshot was that the respondent was arrested by the Commonwealth police officers. He was later interviewed by detectives from the C.I. Branch and made the following statement: “I believe that I have been held unduly and unwarranted by the Queensland police officers who have refused to state the nature of their charges and I believe that this is indicative of the way in which black people are intimidated time and time again by the long arm of the law which stretches directly from the Bjelke-Petersen Government and the Hinze administration. The treatment I have received at the hands of these two police officers employed by the Queensland Police Department is yet another documentation of their heavy-handed methods of subtle persuasion and in fact personifies the insensitivity of the Bjelke-Petersen Government and the Hinge administration towards the black people generally. I condemn completely the roles of the two police officers now interviewing me, not only for their collusion between the State apparatus but more so because of the insidious methods that have been employed by them in order to get something on record against me.” Nothing has been drawn to our attention by Mr. Moriarty to suggest that the respondent was mistreated in any way at all on this afternoon.

The offence of unlawfully wounding under the Code is more serious than the offence under the Crimes Act of obstructing a person carrying out his public duties. One carries a maximum term of imprisonment of seven years and the other a maximum term of two years. However, His Honour has dealt with the offences in a way which would he appropriate if the Commonwealth offences were the more serious offences; in other words, he has imposed a more severe sentence for the Commonwealth offences than he has imposed for the offence of unlawfully wounding.

The respondent has a criminal record which extends back to 3 December 1964. It is urged on his behalf that he had wine to drink and had taken some valium tablets earlier in the day, but his history indicates that he is, unfortunately, liable to become aggressive if emotionally aroused. We have a duty to uphold the rule of law and to protect members of the community and to ensure that disturbances of this sort are not committed in public offices.

For these reasons, I am of the opinion that the sentence of six months imprisonment for unlawfully wounding was inadequate and I would substitute a sentence of two years' imprisonment.

MR. JUSTICE HOARE: I agree. I agree that the sentence was quite inadequate. I take into consideration everything that has been said in favour of the respondent and the references tendered in the District Court which are now before us I also accept that the respondent was to some extent affected by alcohol and Valium which is known to be a had combination. It is said that the respondent is highly intelligent, and I accept that he has worked hard for the Aboriginal community. It is unfortunate that he is apparently not sufficiently intelligent to realise that conduct such as that with which the court was concerned in this case is unlikely to assist the cause of Aboriginals.

The respondent has a record of offences involving violence and many offences of resisting arrest, and in some cases assaulting the police. The law-abiding members of the community are entitled to be protected from lawlessness as far as lies in the power of the court. The overall behaviour of this respondent could fairly be described as arrogant. The court should make it clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated and will bring final retribution. If there are like-minded members of the community, they must be made to understand that the courts will not allow serious offences to be treated as minor offences.

Taking into account everything that has been said in favour of the respondent, in my opinion a sentence of anything less than two years' imprisonment would be utterly inadequate. The two years, in my opinion, should date from the date of the trial.

MR. JUSTICE KNEIPP: I agree for the reasons given by both of my brothers.

MR. JUSTICE D.M. CAMPBELL: The sentence imposed by the learned trial Judge for unlawfully wounding will be varied by substituting a term of two years in lieu of the six months imposed.


Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    The Queen v Denis Bruce Walker

  • Shortened Case Name:

    R v Walker

  • MNC:

    [1979] CCA 83

  • Court:


  • Judge(s):

    D M Campbell J, Hoare J, Kneipp J

  • Date:

    15 Oct 1979

Litigation History

No Litigation History

Appeal Status

No Status