Jailed over a $77 speeding ticket

March 28, 2009

On March 20, former federal court judge Marcus Einfeld was sentenced to three years jail, with a non-parole period of two years, for trying to get out of a speeding fine.

Following harsh media scrutiny, Einfeld pleaded guilty last year to perjury and perverting the course of justice.

In 2006, Einfeld's vehicle was captured by a police speed camera going 10 kilometres per hour over the speed limit. The penalty was $77 and three demerit points.

Einfeld told police that a friend, Teresa Brennan, had been driving the car. Brennan, however, had died three years earlier.

During the trial prosecutors argued Einfeld had lied, and continued to do so, simply to avoid incurring demerit points on his license.

The judge said during sentencing that, as Einfeld had deliberately "premeditated perjury" and was "part of planned criminal activity", other possible sentences — such as a suspended sentence or periodic detention — were not sufficient.

The ex-judge was well-known as an advocate of democracy and human rights; he campaigned in support of refugees and indigenous people and was founding president of the Human Rights Commission.

Einfeld spoke out against the war on terror and attacks on civil liberties. In 2006 he said Australia's so-called anti-terror laws were "leaning towards an autocratic framework, one in which nationalism, homogeneity and a warped and misinformed concept of 'the other' are thrown together into a heady and volatile cocktail".

Einfeld's harsh punishment has been criticised by his supporters. According to the March 6 Australian, an email was circulated in early March that made a plea to keep him out of prison. "He enjoyed the greatest respect not only within his own profession, but from all those familiar with the work he was doing for social justice", it said.

"A prison sentence would be a dire miscarriage of justice."

Einfeld's sentencing comes as the former head of Victoria Police's media unit avoided jail entirely after he pleaded guilty to perjury and to disclosing confidential information relating to an underworld homicide, the March 25 Australian said.

Stephen Linnell agreed to testify against his former colleagues and was handed a two-year suspended sentence for his role in the "top-level leaks scandal" in Victoria.

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