'Druid' wins appeal over pub ban 'death, rape threat'
A SELF proclaimed Byron Bay "druid" with "divine and limitless" jurisdiction has won a NSW Supreme Court appeal over a conviction for sending an offensive email to the licensees of a Byron Bay pub.
The 62-year-old Celtic high priest, known only as Ms Morgan, was convicted in the Tweed Heads Local Court in January 2014 for using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend.
On August 12, 2013, Morgan sent an email to the owners of Byron Bay's Rails Hotel protesting her purported "life ban" from the premises.
In it, she described a fictional scenario in which the recipients' families might be tortured and killed, leaving them "alive to wonder whether or not it is really worth f**king over a person simply because you can".
It further warned: "Never start a War without considering the possibility that, should you lose the War - all men will be killed; all women raped and enslaved; and all children butchered."
In convicting Morgan, Magistrate David Heilpern described that part of the email as "calculated to wound the feelings" of its recipients.
In May 2014, Morgan appealed the conviction in the Lismore District Court but her appeal was dismissed and the conviction upheld. She was ordered to pay $1000 and given a two-year good behaviour bond.
Undeterred, Morgan escalated her appeal to the NSW Supreme Court.
She faced an appeal hearing on May 10 this year, having refused legal representation because it was "not an option" for a druid.
According to the judgment, "druids were once held in such high regard that they could quell any private or public dispute, including a stand-off between opposing armies".
"Their jurisdiction was divine and limitless. By contrast, and fortunately for the applicant, the jurisdiction of Australian inferior courts is statutory and limited."
The NSW Supreme Court found Tweed Heads Local Court didn't have the power to summarily convict Morgan for what was an indictable offence potentially carrying more than a 12-month jail term.
The conviction would have only been allowable if Morgan had agreed to a summary disposition, which she did not.
The NSW Supreme Court also found the local court had relied on a faulty legal meaning of the word "offensive", which "would enliven its power to convict".
Actions deemed offensive by the court must have been intended to "arouse significant anger, significant resentment, outrage, disgust or hatred" in the mind of a reasonable person, but it was not sufficient to "only hurt or wound the feelings of the recipient".
Ultimately, the NSW Supreme Court ordered the Lismore District Court to set aside the applicant's conviction in the local court and ordered the State of NSW to pay the applicant's legal costs.
But NSW Court of Appeal president Justice Margaret Beazley noted it "had not been established that no offence was committed" by Morgan.
"It will be a matter for the prosecuting authorities to take whatever course they now determine, presumably having regard to the reasons of this court," she said.