Judge overturns jail term imposed by ‘no doubt frustrated’ magistrate

A “difficult, unresponsive, and even obstructive litigant” has successfully appealed a jail sentence meted out by a “no doubt frustrated” Sunshine Coast magistrate after maintaining “sovereign immunity” from Queensland law.

Maroochydore District Court Judge Glen Cash recently allowed an appeal by Todd James Dent against a two-month prison term imposed for two bail breaches – by way of failing to appear in court – by a Noosa magistrate on 23 August 2022.

Judge Cash, in a decision published last week, said that Dent, 43, of Maroochydore, received cumulative sentences of one month’s imprisonment from the magistrate on each count of failing to appear in court when required, contrary to section 33 of the Bail Act 1980.

Dent spent 24 days of the sentence in jail before being granted bail by Judge Cash on 14 September 2022 pending the outcome his appeal under Section 222 of the Justices Act 1886.

The court was told the day Dent was jailed he was quizzed by the magistrate for reasons surrounding previous failures to appear in court as required as part of bail requirements.

“(Dent) was not represented by a lawyer … (and) did not assist himself by making meaningless references to a ‘tribal equity court’ and a purported section 450N of some legislation which (Dent) did not identify,” Judge Cash said.


“My own research suggests that (Dent) intended that to be a reference to a provision in the United States Code preserving the sovereign immunity of Native Americans and, if so, it was plainly irrelevant to the proceeding before the Magistrate.

“No doubt frustrated by the absence of meaningful response from (Dent), the Magistrate dealt with him in a manner which was, in my view, impatient.

“Without taking a plea from (Dent) or hearing any evidence, the Magistrate declared (Dent) had not shown cause as to why he failed to appear on the two occasions as alleged.

“The Magistrate having heard the submissions of (Dent), wrongly attributed to un-named Justices of the Supreme Court, the view that those Justices were ‘sick and tired of this rubbish.’ I am aware of no such statement from the Supreme Court of this State.

“[The magistrate] did correctly recall that arguments like those raised by (Dent) have been described in the Court of Appeal as ‘gobbledy-gook’.”

Justice Cash said the hearing concluded with the following exchange:


“Magistrate: Okay. This is your last opportunity. You failed to appear in the court on the 3rd of June 2022; can you tell me why?

Mr Dent: Under section 450N this is not my jurisdiction, Your Honour.

Magistrate: Likewise, on the 16th of November ’21 at Noosa Heads, you failed to surrender into custody at the Noosa Magistrates Court in accordance with your undertaking entered into on the 29th of October last year; why didn’t you appear, can you show cause?

Mr Dent: We appeared with a notice of special appearance.

Magistrate: There are two contempt charges. On each charge you’re convicted and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment. They’re cumulative with each other; that’s a total period today of two months’ imprisonment.”

The court was told that soon after the sentence was imposed the magistrate and the police prosecutor made “joking references” to Dent’s reliance on ‘section 450’ as a defence.


“No reasons at all were given by the Magistrate as to why he imposed the sentence he did,” Judge Cash. “(Dent) argued the sentence was in any event excessive. He is right in that regard, too.

“The sentence imposed by the Magistrate for each of the offences of failing to appear must be set aside. But for the fact that (Dent) has already served 24 days’ imprisonment, consideration might be given to the imposition of a fine.

“This, in my view, would have been the appropriate sentence at first instance, but (Dent) ought not to be further punished which would be the result of a financial penalty being imposed now.”

Judge Cash granted Dent’s appeal, ordered the sentences be set aside and not further punished for each convicted offence.

The judge made additional comments after making his orders, saying he hoped conduct highlighted in these proceedings of this kind was not commonly seen by courts in the future.

“(Dent) was no doubt a difficult, unresponsive, and even obstructive litigant,” he said. “Nonetheless, judicial officers administering the criminal laws of this State are obliged to ‘do right by all manner of people’.


“Sometimes this requires patience and forbearance. Always it requires the judicial officer to adhere closely to the requirements of our Statute laws.

“Impatience and intemperance will rarely improve a difficult hearing, and they risk, as was the outcome here, unnecessary error.

“Had the Magistrate in this case taken the time to calmly consider the matter, to apply the requirements of the legislation and the common law, and to meet his obligation to give reasons for the decision that was reached, (Dent) may have been spared 24 days in prison, and the community the expense of correcting the Magistrate’s error.”

Read the decision.

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