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Tag Archives: Magistrates Court

Courtroom Artists

Courtroom sketch artists go back to nineteenth century in an on again, off again relationship with printing technology and the courts permitting cameras. In Australia cameras are generally banned from the courts, so in order to have a picture of a defendant appearing in a trial courtroom sketch artists are employed by the media.

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One of Wendy Black’s courtroom sketches

Melbourne painter and silk screen artist, Wendy Black has worked as a courtroom sketch artist for Network Ten and other media outlets. I interviewed her about this intersection of art and crime.

Black explained the job. “It is a bit like extras work, you stand around and wait and wait for hours and then you have three minutes of intense action. It is the same with this. You are just given one name and there could be thirty people going through the court that day and you just have to listen for that name. So you are looking very intently at everyone. When that name comes up you have to intensely draw for three minutes and remember what colour eyes, ties and shirts if you haven’t drawn enough in three minutes.”

There are a small band of court artists in Melbourne, about half a dozen courtroom sketch artists working on a freelance basis. Black started working for newspapers and moved to television when in 2005 she rang Network Ten to tell them she had just drawn the accused in a high profile murder at the time, Joe Korp, the husband of the women in the boot story.

In the UK courtroom sketch artists cannot draw in court but must work from memory and notes to produce their drawings outside the courtroom. In Australia and the USA artists are permitted to sketch in the courtroom. There is no restriction on the media that courtroom sketch artists can use. Black had a lot of time to explore different media. “I got very fond of coloured pencil, I must admit.” But there is a limit to what you can bring into court because of security. “I really had to change from Stanley knifes for sharpening very fine points on pencils to going to the dreaded pencil sharpener which I couldn’t bare but now I’ve sort of come back to liking it.”

After the sketches have gone through the media cycle, the artist can keep them or sell them. People and institutions collect these sketches; the National Museum of Australia that has 182 courtroom drawings by Veronica O’Leary of the 1982 trial of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain.

In 2007 Black had an exhibition of her sketches in Langs Lane, part of the Laneway Commission “Three Minute Attention Span”. The exhibition involved her drawing in the Magistrates court for sixteen weeks everyday.

She prepared for this with lots of life drawing. To be a courtroom artist you need to stay in practice with life drawing to keeping your hand in. For budding courtroom sketch artists Black recommends the life drawing sessions where you do the one minute, three minute, five minute drawings before you get into a longer pose.

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All Charges Dismissed

15 months after the police raid on Linden Gallery Magistrate Amanda Chambers dismissed all charges and ordered the police to pay costs. She was also critical of the police handling of the search warrant where they excised with a Stanley knife parts of Paul Yore’s installation.

Over those 15 months Paul Yore has continued to exhibit, except when his installation was removed from Sydney Contemporary 2013. He is currently exhibiting in Primavera 2014: Young Australian Artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney.

Paul Yore made a statement through his lawyer; ”Paul is glad to see the end of what has been a long and drawn out process. He would like to extend his heartfelt thanks to the legal team, namely Marita Altman, Neil Clelland QC and Rowena Orr. He is especially grateful for all of the support from his friends and family and the broader arts community, especially Juan Davila, Max Delany, Antonia Syme, Dr Juliette Peers, Callum Morton, Mikala Dwyer, Geoff Newton, Jason Smith and Jacob Oberman.”

The months of police investigation failed to look into the Australian Classification Board’s ruling on the installation. It was this ruling, that prosecution presented in its own evidence, that the exhibition was classified ‘Restricted’ that decided the case.

From the police’s perspective, what else could they do? They had a report of child pornography and they had a duty to investigate; a police officer who was an expert in art crime would have helped the investigation. However, using an artist’s career for purposes of clarification of a law is not an innocent activity and the police were not the only people involved. This case went past by multiple magistrates who should have asked questions rather than simply rubber stamp procedures.

The police clearly violated Paul Yore’s moral right for the integrity of his art by removing portions of it without his consent. When Detective Senior Constable Samantha Johnson of St. Kilda police was asked under cross examination by defence barrister Neil Clelland QC: “Who authorised you to remove the parts with a Stanley knife?”

Contable Johnson  replied; ’The Magistrate’

“Did you inform them on how you would remove the images?”

‘No.’

I do not expect that anything will be learnt by the police from this experience.

There have been many articles, and I’ve contributed my fair share, media spots and even a play, Wank created by James Hogan et. al. at The Bloomshed in April 2014, about the case. However, none of the most important question has been answered either by the court or in any of the articles: why was Paul Yore charged in the first place?


Paul Yore Contest Mention

This morning, 14th February 2014, a contest mention in the case of Paul Yore was heard in Court Room 12 of the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Paul Yore was charged with producing and possessing child pornography on the 7th of September 2013 after a police raid on the Linden Centre for Contemporary Art on Saturday 1st of June 2013. Paul Yore was not in court today and the court was informed that he is currently working overseas.

The defence asked that the media have access to the charge sheet, minus Yore’s street address. This was agreed to by the prosecution and granted by the magistrate. Media interest in the case continues and three members of the media were in the court today.

No plea was entered and the case was adjourned until a contest hearing in the Country Court later this year.

For a background of this case see: Police Raid Art Gallery, Political Motivation Behind Police Raid, Follow Up Like MikeBarry Keldoulis is FuckedPaul Yore Justice Delayed and Justice Repeatedly Delayed.


Justice Repeatedly Delayed

When Paul Yore mention hearing was scheduled for courtroom 1 of Melbourne Magistrates Court I had some hope that the case might progress. Courtroom 1 is the courtroom where they hold the mention hearings for the big cases; the murders, the baby killers and MP Craig Thomson’s corruption accusations.

Looking at the court lists on the ground floor of the Magistrates Court I was disappointed to see that it had been moved to Courtroom 11. Again there were a few journalists in Courtroom 11 from before 11 am and, again there was no sign of Paul Yore or the Informant, Snr. Cons. S. Johnson of Victoria Police. There was a notice on the door of courtroom 11 that impenetrably said that “SOL cases” had been moved to courtroom 12. By the time that the AAP journalist and myself found out what “SOL cases” meant the Paul Yore hearing had been adjourned again until the 14th of February.

Last year on the 25th of November there was meant to be a mention hearing for Paul Yore in the Melbourne Magistrates Court but the case was adjourned. See my post: Justice Delayed.

The whole absurd case is a waste of time and is just creating further delays in Victoria’s justice system, as if there isn’t enough delays in Victoria’s justice system already. Victoria’s Magistrates Courts have the largest backlog of cases of any jurisdiction in Australia; according the annual report of the Victorian Magistrates Court 8.7% of cases pending for more than 12 months. (Annual Report 2011-12 p.91)

Scroll down the page for the inevitable comment from the troll that started this legal waste of time, Adrian Jackson.


Paul Yore Justice Delayed

On Monday the 25th of November at 11am there was meant to be a mention hearing for Paul Yore in the Melbourne Magistrates Court. On Saturday 1st of June police had raided the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts and removed 7 collage works by artist, Paul Yore alleging that the art was child pornography. There were about four or five journalists in Court Room 7 from before 11 am.  There was no sign of Paul Yore or the Informant, Snr. Cons. S. Johnson of Victoria Police.

Paul Yore, "Fountain of Knowledge", 2013

Paul Yore, “Fountain of Knowledge”, 2013

Paul Yore is young Melbourne artist who has work on exhibition in Melbourne Now currently on at the National Gallery of Victoria. 2013 has been a strange year for Yore along with multiple exhibitions and the police raid, he was thrown out of Sydney Contemporary at the last moment and won the $8000 Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award. Through all of this Paul Yore has been keeping silent and a low profile. This was the tactic that spin doctor, Sue Cato recommend to Bill Henson and Roslyn Oxley when the media storm blew at them. Yore’s team has adopted this same tactic.

It has been difficult to get information out of either side. Senior Sergeant Brens, the Acting Senior Sergent of the Media Unit of Victoria Police wrote on the 30th August: “The investigation is ongoing and there is no update. I’ve been advised there may be some progress in a couple of weeks so please check in again after 13 September 2013.” Then on the 7th of September, the day of the Federal Elections, news that Paul Yore had been charged with producing and possessing child pornography came out the in Murdoch owned media.

Australia has a poor history of philistine persecutions of artists; the exhibition that the police raided at the Linden Centre, “Like Mike” was a response to the Australian artist, Mike Brown. In 1966 Brown was convicted of obscenity and was sentenced to three months hard labour that was reduced to a $20 fine on appeal. Since then the Australian police and censors have been intermittently and unsuccessfully tried to prosecute artists. It is a repeated pattern and questions need to be answered about the police censoring the arts in Australia. Moral panic over the depiction of children is currently being used as an official cudgel to beat artists. Bill Henson has already withdrawn from 2014 Adelaide Biennial after a SA police detective urged Premier Jay Weatherill to stop Henson’s participation. Sydney Contemporary’s Director Barry Keldoulis uses a lawyer to determine if artists can be shown in NSW.

It was former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who promoted attacking Bill Henson’s photographs in an appearance on breakfast television. Not that the Australian government is any kind of example of benevolent treatment of children. Not that the police seizure of Yore’s art has much to do with moral panic it is more about the police being used by some right wing politicians trying to destroy the Linden Centre’s funding model. The story has no traction except for commentators like myself.

The silence and delays have not been good for the Linden Centre’s staff. In October 13 The Age reported on claims that gallery staff were bullied into quitting. The silence and delays have not been good for Paul Yore. The silence and delays have not been good for the public who desperately want a resolution to the long running art censorship debate in Australian culture. There have been glum expressions around Melbourne’s art world for the last half-year whenever Paul Yore’s name is mentioned. Bill Henson was in Sydney and was already a big name but Paul is in the same position of many of Melbourne’s artists. Glum expressions are not what Yore’s art is about; it is funny, irreverent and ribald. The silence and delays only assists the retreat of the conservative forces and a petty right-wing troll who is seeking to destroy the Linden Centre.

Back in the crowded courtroom number of 7 of Melbourne Magistrates Court the 3 rows of seats were full. The magistrate was trying to keep cases moving, there were adjournments and more diversion orders. Slowly the seats were emptying and the journalists were getting restless. Court adjourned and the media finally finds out that Paul Yore’s case has been delayed until 10th of January 2014.

After half a year of waiting for a resolution to the police raid and we can only speculate at the reasons for the delays. It only took the NSW Police two months in 2008 after they raided Bill Henson’s exhibition to return the photographs without laying any charges.

(For more on the Paul Yore case see my post: Police Raid Gallery and Political Motivation Behind Police Raid.)


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