… But don't sign (just) anything!

It’s not for nothing that people say, when they push a piece of paper and a pen in your direction, ‘sign your life away’.

Korgbara v The Queen [2010] NSWCCA 176 was an appeal on sentence. The appellant claimed, and the Court of Appeal accepted, that he had signed the ‘Statement of Facts’ tendered to the sentencing court without reading it first.

McCallum J [at 23 and 24]:

23 The statement of facts runs to some 10 pages of closely typed print. It contains a combination of direct accounts of the evidence against Mr Korgbara (mostly recorded conversations) and conclusions contended for by the Crown as to the inferences to be drawn from that material. Its contents plainly called for express instructions from Mr Korgbara. For example, the statement said:

“It is alleged that during this conversation although the accused was suggesting that he would not be involved in the supply of drugs that he was in reality negotiating a drug deal with the undercover officer. It is also alleged that during this conversation it was the intention of the accused to use another man referred to as Mark (Raymond Emefo) to deliver prohibited drug to Hamish so that the accused was distanced from the transaction.”

24 Those were critical contentions in determining the measure of Mr Korgbara’s responsibility for the offence, but it would seem that he was not given an opportunity to consider them before the statement of facts became an agreed exhibit.

The appellant was not a native English speaker. Quite how he came to sign a document he didn’t agree with isn’t clear, but on the appeal a statutory declaration from him was tendered. On the appellant’s version [reproduced at 19 of the judgment] and partially supported by his solicitor’s affidavit,

She said just sign it, I will explain to you later.

He did. He later wished he hadn’t.

The Court of Appeal upheld the appeal and returned the matter to the District Court for resentencing.

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