Grantham flood fraudster loses appeal

A GRANTHAM woman who was convicted for fraud after dishonestly obtaining $142,763 in flood relief payments has lost her appeal in Queensland's highest court.

Christine Margaret Blackmore was convicted in July 2015 of fraud after she claimed her Grantham house, which was damaged during the 2011 floods, was her principal place of residence.

She also forged the address on her rates notice and faxed the altered rates notice to the Queensland Government.

She appealed her convictions at Queensland's Court of Appeal, claiming there could have been prejudice at her trial because of issues with the jury.

Blackmore was convicted after a five-day trial.

In the judgment handed down on Tuesday, Justice Margaret McMurdo noted there were two trials before this; one was a mistrial in October 2014 after Blackmore and a witness exchanged text messages and the jury could not reach a verdict following the second trial in November 2014.

At Blackmore's third trial last year, one juror became unwell and his wife phoned the registry concerned that her husband was very upset and felt pressured and did not want to come back. He returned but was later discharged and the trial judge told the jury it could return a majority verdict if 10 out of the 11 of the remaining jurors agreed.

The jury later returned a guilty verdict for two of the offences from 10 agreed jurors, and a unanimous guilty verdict for the third offence.

On appeal, Blackmore's legal team argued the juror who was unwell breached the rules because he communicated with his wife about the case's deliberations, prompting the wife to phone the registry.

Her legal team argued that not dismissing the jury likely prejudiced a fair trial.

But Justice McMurdo said she was not persuaded that there was evidence that the unwell juror breached the rules.

"A juror does not contravene (the act) or break his or her oath or affirmation by telling a bailiff or someone in the category of close family member ... that he or she is feeling physically or mentally unwell because of the pressure flowing from the juror's role in general," Justice McMurdo said. - ARM NEWSDESK



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