Day 78: 14 July 2017
Saturday, 14 July 2018 13:48

Jon and Sue Stagg run the Atlas Expresso cafe on the corner of Macquarie and Elizabeth Streets here in Hobart. They are known for good coffee, free babyccinos, and holding the Guinness World Record for serving the most cappuccinos in one hour from one coffee machine (353). Jon is also renown for the messages he posts on a chalkboard out the front of the shop, like... ‘My mother-in-law is coming to stay for Christmas; eight weeks of domestic bliss. Purely by coincidence, I’m extending trading hours. I was thinking 24 hours 7 days for eight weeks.’ Or this: ‘Welcome to the Australian Airports Association’s annual meeting. And a big thank you if you guys are responsible for cancelling direct flights from Adelaide to Hobart; my mother-in-law now visits only once a year.’ 'Today’s soup is Minestrony. Yes, I do know how to spell minestrone but it makes some people so happy when they get to correct a typo – I just wanted to spread some love.’ ‘Today’s soup is Curried Red Lentil. I know it sounds like something you find in a 20 litre pot on the stove in a uni share house the day before dole day, but it’s actually quite yummy.’ ‘The Council has started a new outreach program to help the disaffected, you know, red-heads, anxious pyromaniacs, alcoholics and pessimists. The program is called Bringing Gingers, Cringers, Singe-ers, Bingers and Whingers In From The Fringes.’ ‘It’s Oktoberfest at Atlas. We can’t sell beer but we can sell you a sober-up coffee instead. Just remember that beer doesn’t make you fat, it makes you lean… lean against walls and tables.’ ‘I don’t normally give career advice. I feel it’s up to each of us to search for the thing that gets us out of bed each day. However, to the guy who tried to nick my bike – if you can’t get away from a middle aged man wearing an apron, professional theft might not be your thing. ‘Every day a charming girl spits on her fingers and smears my chalk sign. No biggy. But I’ve gotta know if she reads my signs. So today I dipped my stick of chalk in cat excrement.’

Day 76: 12 July 2017
Thursday, 12 July 2018 10:11

Day three of the trial: Today’s first witness is another police constable. He looks fifteen. He’s asked about a raid on a Glenorchy house. Inside the chimney he found charred boxes containing prescription drugs. Photos had been taken and the partially-burnt boxes then passed onto the Exhibits officer. A court official hands the constable a brown paper bag, scissors and gloves. The policeman cuts open the bag and confirms that the charred remains are those he found in the chimney. The next witness tells the court she’d been unwell, and was taking Kapanol to ease the pain. A relative told her that if she reduced her dose, she could sell the remaining tablets for as much as $25 per pill. A ‘fishing trip’, she tells the court, is code for bringing a spare car tyre to Devonport on the Spirit of Tasmania, the drugs hidden inside the tyre. The woman concedes she and her husband were paid $20,000 to make four fishing trips. Prosecutor: ‘So every time you travelled on the Spirit of Tasmania you were paid $5,000?’ Witness: ‘Yes.’ Defence counsel: ‘The police promised you immunity and no requirement to repay the $20,000 in return for your testimony here against the accused; is that right?’ Witness: ‘Yes.’ Immunity for dobbing-in the three men sitting behind her! She looks like a benevolent, kind grandmother, all warm and cuddly. Nup! During the lunch break, I spot the accused enjoying a pub lunch down on the Salamanca drag. I ponder where they’ll be eating lunch in five weeks’ time: Wrest Point… or Risdon! A Perry Mason addict during my boyhood, I’m wondering when we’ll see a witness break down, cry uncontrollably, and confess all, like ‘I never meant to do it!’

Day 77: 13 July 2017
Friday, 13 July 2018 14:19

Do you know what SWIPERS are? ‘Seemingly Well-Intentioned Patrons Engaged in Routine Shoplifting.’ I’m referring, in particular, to supermarket shoppers who commit fraud at self-serve checkout machines. (‘It’s cheating, not stealing,’ one offender tried to argue.) Have you ever done it? Apparently, 80 per cent of university students commit fraud, such as swiping more expensive vegetables as carrots or onions. ‘Swiping everything as carrots is extremely prevalent among young shoppers,’ said a supermarket spokesperson. People are so stupid. One guy tried to scan ten dollars of fish as one onion. He got caught. Another drip tried to get away with scanning a whole chicken… as a banana! Other substitutions include scanning anything from the bakery as a plain bread roll. Or weighing pink lady apples ($7 per kilo) as carrots ($1 per kilo). Or coloured Krispy Kreme donuts as plain ones. One young person said he regarded it all as a game, to see what he could get away with! A Queensland woman was jailed this year after defrauding a supermarket of $4,500. On thirty-one separate occasions she’d stuck barcodes she’d previously taken home and photocopied from 64c and 72c packs of noodles – using sticky labels – onto items like meat, protein powders; even onto a coffee machine on sale! In some supermarkets, Coles is limiting self-serve shopping to twelve items as a way to stem the cost of theft, which the chain says costs them $1.1 billion per year. They weren’t happy when they found they’d been selling more carrots than they had in stock! Getting rid of human checkout operators must be terribly costly for the supermarkets, given that each self-serve machine costs around $150,000 to instal. And then customers go and use them to steal $1.1 billion worth of stuff. The worst I’ve done is to genuinely forget to scan the 15c plastic bag we use here in Tassie for my shopping. 

Day 75: 11 July 2017
Wednesday, 11 July 2018 15:30

Day two of the trial: Today’s first witness is the head of Tasmania Police’s drug squad. We learn how, over a two-year period, officers intercepted (listened-into) a staggering 40,000 phone conversations made between the accused and others connected to them. During the course of this morning, we’ll be made to listen to thirty-four calls, replayed loudly to the court. ‘I’ve got a proposition for you,’ one of the accused is heard to say. His Honour instructs the jury to forget it. ‘Everyone’s got a proposition,’ he tells them. Counsel for one of the accused finds the idea of listening to 40,000 phone calls hard to believe. ‘Assuming the average call lasts one minute, that’s 28 days of listening,’ he says. ‘Yes,’ replies the senior constable. Despite the colourful language heard on the tapes, at times one has to work to stay awake. I notice two jurors with their head in their hand. My stay-awake strategy is to count things. I count the Blackwood wall panels, the number of skylights built into the Huon pine ceiling, how many of the thirty-nine people in the courtroom are men, and how many are women. After lunch, we get to hear from an executive of the company which operates the Spirit of Tasmania ferry service between Devonport and the mainland. We’re required to hear booking details of some forty or so trips made by the defendants over the course of a year – although we’re not told why. A barrister for the Defence then tries to establish the possibility that someone other than the accused, whose names are on the tickets, could have made the bookings and taken the trip in their name. It’s all nonsense, because you need photo ID. His Honour shows impatience, saying to a Crown prosecutor, ‘You’re not showing a great deal of experience in having travelled on the Spirit of Tasmania’. Replies counsel: ‘Your Honour, I’m showing zero experience at having used it!’ Court is adjourned until 9.30am tomorrow.


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