07 January 2014

Cremation Arbitrage

In Commissioner of Police v James [2013] QCA 403 Margaret McMurdo P, Fraser JA and Henry J considered an appeal following the respondent's pleading in the Magistrates Court to 59 charges of making a false statement for the purposes of registering births, deaths and marriages (i.e. contrary to s 501 of the Criminal Code), 15 counts of forgery and 15 counts of uttering a registration document (contrary to s 488 of the Criminal Code).

James was a funeral director in Brisbane. He had written agreements with families that their loved ones would be cremated in southeast Queensland (i.e. at the Mt Gravatt or Logan crematoriums). Instead he reportedly loaded the coffins in his station wagon (four at a time) and drove to Rockhampton, where cremations were cheaper, thereby making a profit of $30,426.

His barrister in the Magistrates Court reportedly argued that no great damage had been done, commenting that -
He put the wrong name down, where the service was conducted. He has dyslexia and stupidly filled out another form; he does not deserve going to jail.
James had pleaded guilty, with the matter being dealt with summarily pursuant to s 552BA(4)(b) of the Criminal Code. James was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment wholly suspended for two years. On appeal to the District Court against the sentence pursuant to s 222 of the Justices Act 1886 (Qld) the sentence was varied to a term of two years imprisonment wholly suspended for an operational period of three years and James was discharged for the forgery and uttering offences.

In the current instance the QCA considered whether the District Court judge had jurisdiction under s 222 of the Justices Act 1886 (Qld) to set aside those convictions