Former South Australian magistrate Bob Harrap pressured his clerk to take his demerit points in a manner that could be considered coercive control, a court has heard.

Key points:

  • A court has heard corrupt South Australian magistrate Bob Harrap emotionally manipulated his court clerk to take his demerit points
  • The Director of Public Prosecutions said his 18-month jail term was inadequate
  • The DPP has also appealed the sentence handed down to lawyer Christine Moyse

The ex-Christies Beach judicial officer pressured court clerk Melanie Freeman and then-police prosecutor Abigail Foulkes to take demerit points for him after he racked up speeding fines in his government-issued car.

In a separate incident, the 62-year-old gave his former girlfriend, lawyer Catherine Moyse, advice about how to prepare an appeal before insisting he preside over it.

Harrap was sentenced to 18 months’ jail with a non-parole period of 12 months for deception and conspiracy offences last December.

At sentencing, Judge Paul Slattery condemned the conduct of Harrap, saying he pressured or bullied the three women — Freeman, Foulkes and Moyse — to help him commit his crimes.

Appeals against sentences

Today, Director of Public Prosecutions Martin Hinton QC appealed against Harrap’s penalty and the judge’s decision not to convict Moyse.

Meanwhile, Harrap is also appealing against his sentence, submitting it was “very harsh”.

Mr Hinton told the court that Harrap’s sentence was inadequate given public trust in the judiciary.

He said the court needed to consider Harrap’s good character against the background of the pressure he placed on his court clerk to take demerit points for him when she was reluctant to do so.

“If you look at the nature of the text messages, they’re manipulative, they’re emotionally manipulative,” he said.

Justice David Lovell asked Mr Hinton if that was considered abuse.

“We don’t have the offences in this state but in other states, they’re certainly looking at coercion and control offences,” Mr Hinton responded.

“And this is the sort of conduct that people are beginning to look at.

“Of course, you are applying pressure, of course you’re bringing into that pressure the nature of the emotional relationship.”

Coercive control laws criminalise behaviours such as financial and emotional control in a relationship.

Mr Hinton told the court that Moyse should have been convicted for her part in the conspiracy because she was a “willing participant” in discussions to get “an orchestrated outcome” for her client.

Moyse — a probate and estate solicitor — was representing the son of a family friend on an appeal against a driving disqualification and asked Harrap for advice.

Harrap provided advice about how to prepare the appeal and insisted on also presiding over the case, creating a potential conflict of interest.

Catherine Jayne Moyse (centre) was spared a conviction and fined $600.(ABC News: Meagan Dillon)

Mr Hinton told the court that she was given “a pass” by the District Court.

“His Honour has significantly devalued the ethical responsibility of a legal practitioner — who is admitted to the court and trained in ethics,” he said.

“The expectations that this court places on legal practitioners are high.

“But just because it was a jurisdiction she was unfamiliar with, and just because she was to act as the advocate in her application and just because she was anxious, no conviction is recorded.

“That is unacceptable with respect to the [sentencing] judge.”

Mr Hinton also said intercepted phone calls and text messages showed Moyse was the one who sought out Harrap, telling a friend, ‘I’m appearing before Bob … if he doesn’t give me what I want, look out’.

But Grant Aligie QC, for Moyse, told the Court of Criminal Appeal that Judge Slattery considered the “vulnerability of the human condition” when he did not convict his client.

He said the Legal Practitioners Professional Conduct Board last week allowed Moyse to continue to practice law.

Harrap’s legal team described the sentence as ‘harsh’

David Edwardson QC, for Harrap, told the court that the 18-month sentence handed to his client was “a very harsh sentence indeed”.

He said given he had been a magistrate, Harrap was at greater risk of harm in prison and should never have been jailed.

“If there was ever a case for home detention, it’s this one,” he told the court.

Mr Edwardson said there was also “little difference” in culpability between his client and Abigail Foulkes, who was convicted and placed on a good behaviour bond.

He submitted that as a police prosecutor, Ms Foulkes was in a “comparable” position to the magistrate, when she engaged in deception by taking demerit points for Harrap.

Chief Justice Chris Kourakis, Justice David Lovell and Justice Mark Livesey have reserved their decision.