Jury still out: MP

GRAFTON Local Court Magistrate David Heilpern has demanded comments he endorses bad language be withdrawn.

Yesterday, The Daily Examiner ran a story in which state member for Clarence Steve Cansdell claimed Mr Heilpern endorsed the use of the “c-word” and that he had written a judgement that it was permissible for members of the public to tell police officers to “f--- off”.

While sentencing an offender in the Grafton Local Court yesterday, Mr Heilpern noted the report was simply not true and that he would never endorse the use of the c-word or the f-word in any judgement he had written.

Later he told The Daily Examiner he had no idea where Mr Cansdell got the idea he endorsed the use of bad language.

Mr Heilpern did point out that in a judgement he made in the case of Police v Dunn in Dubbo Local Court on August 27, 1999, he found a defendant’s use of the term ‘f--- off’ was not offensive, but that was in a particular application of the law.

“At no time did I endorse the language,” he said.

“I would never, ever endorse the use of the c-word in public, in court or in private.”

In the judgement of Police v Dunn, Mr Heilpern wrote: “The present case is a classic example of conduct which offends against the standard of good taste or good manners which is a breach of the rules of courtesy or runs contrary to accepted social rules. ... It was ill advised and not proper conduct ... but it is not offensive with the meaning of the Section.”

In his judgement, Mr Heilpern goes to some length to show the word had lost a lot of its power to offend and that in this case, there was some doubt about its use at all.

Mr Cansdell said he met with Mr Heilpern yesterday to discuss police concerns about some of his decisions.

He admitted there was some misunderstanding about the use of the c-word in some legal matters, but stuck to his guns over police fears the magistrate was soft on offensive behaviour matters.

“I’ve had one police officer write to me and say that he expected the courts to take affirmative action in cases where police are subjected to offensive behaviour,” he said.

“He said if courts continued to dismiss offensive language cases, police will not bother to put these matters before courts.”

Mr Cansdell said Mr Heilpern had assured him he would not be going “soft” on offensive behaviour against police.

“The jury’s out. Mr Heilpern has said he will not let anyone off lightly and I said I will hold him to that. He’s given me his private number and said I could contact him if I had any problems,” he said.

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