Thursday, 12 August 2010

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

I'll be blunt. I don't make any claim to understanding the law. While some other people who attended today's hearing walked away from it reasonably confident, albeit still with an appropriate level of cautiousness, I'm not so sure - certainly I don't think we came out of it any worse than we when we came into it - but Justice Pagone is a hard man to read. I'll do my best to set the scene.

The first 50 minutes or so was taken up with our lawyer setting up the foundations so to speak. Nothing new or exciting there; quite dull actually. It was after the 50 minute mark that we started seeing a bit more action. That's where we started going through the arguments we thought were relevant. After about another 45/50 minutes, it was the FFV's turn.

Justice Pagone is quite softly spoken and has a very wry sense of humour. Very old school teacher kind of vibe as well - he was giving each side enough rope before succinctly and subtly bringing them back into line. Since we went first, it was quite nerve wracking to see him shoot down various angles we were trying to pursue - the thing to remember was that he was just as likely to do it to the FFV's lawyers, which is exactly what happened. He even managed to break out in laughter a couple of times.

As one would expect in such a matter, both sides appealed to many of the same materials - the original tribunal hearing, the appeal transcript (which went to 120 pages) and the FFV's constitution - with emphasis on which elements would take importance over others differing, of course.

Much was vested by either side in two little words - for us 'other', and for the FFV 'may'. We were trying to argue the point that since the issues of bottle throwing, racial vilification etc. had been covered by the original charges (I think MP5 and/or MP9 was the main one), what 'other' charges were they trying to hit us with in MP10? For the FFV, if I recall correctly, they were talking about the ways in which they 'may' introduce charges and/or punishments as they wish and as is indicated in their constitution.

In terms of preparedness and performance, I think our side was better. It won't be the main thing Justice Pagone will look at, but it wasn't a good look the FFV fumbling around for papers they didn't have, and being unable to answer how they managed to come to their idea of a six point deduction - in addition to it seemingly going against their pre-ordained list of set penalties of for transgressions. At least, that's how I read the situation.

The FFV tried to argue that the possibility of the punishment being heavier on appeal was always on the table, as it is with regular courts. We argued that how could that be so when we had already been punished and accepted guilt for those actions previously - surely we could not be found guilty and punished for the same charge twice? The FFV seemed to struggle to prove to Justice Pagone that the new charge and/or heavier punishment had been adequately articulated to Nick Galatas - with both sides pointing to different parts of the appeal transcript to prove their point the FFV focusing naturally on very early segments, us on the very end - both sides deemed this quite crucial to the debate. We referred to the Carlton vs AFL case of a few years back - the FFV to the 1978 case of the NSW Coursing Club or something like that.

The FFV lawyers at one stage mistakenly indicated that Heidelberg Laser Dude was one of our fans - he was immediately corrected, though Justice Pagone wondered out loud what kind of game was this that caused such behaviour. Clarendon Corner was described as a known trouble spot. I wish I could be as confident as others seem to be about our chances, but I don't know the law, and I don't know what Justice Pagone will come up with next week, and which arguments he'll be swayed by the most. Like the rest of us, I just have to wait until next week when Justice Pagone hands down his decision.

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