31 July 2015
The Glennie School Supreme Court of Queensland was in session on Tuesday. Year 11 Legal Studies students presented a Moot Court trial conducted according to the rules and procedures laid down by the Queensland Supreme Court.
The Moot Court provides a valuable opportunity for students to develop their legal analytical skills and it allows students to practise law in a ‘real’ environment. It also allows the School community and general public to learn more about the practice of law and the criminal justice system.
The Moot Case
On 4 November 2014, Sister Margaret Woodruff was returning to her car, parked at the Neil Street Bus Interchange car park in Toowoomba. It was 11:00pm and the car park was deserted except for two members of a bikie gang, the Comancheros. When she walked past the pair, she heard one of them, later found to be Jack Cummings (alias “Snake-face”), suggest that “the evening’s entertainment had arrived!”
After being accosted by the two men, Sister Margaret Woodruff struggled from their grasp, reached into her handbag and pulled out a pistol. As “Snake-face” took a few steps towards her, she pulled the trigger and shot him. He died later that night in the Toowoomba Base Hospital from a fatal chest wound. Sister Woodruff was also taken to the Toowoomba Base Hospital suffering post traumatic shock. In her statement to the police, she claimed that although it was hard to remember what happened, she insisted the gun had fired accidentally.
The Prosecution Case
The accused had always hated bikie groups because her brother had been bashed and maimed by a member of the Hell’s Angels when she was 15 years old. When she was allegedly assaulted by the Comancheros, she saw an opportunity to get revenge and make a stand against lawlessness on the streets. The accused had a gun and knew how to use it. She wanted the death to appear as an accident. There was no lethal threat to the accused and the force used was way out of proportion to the original assault.
The Defence Case
The actions of the accused can be excused on the grounds of accident and self defence. Sister Woodruff had been assaulted as a young girl and her brother’s vicious bashing led her to a reasonable fear that she was about to be sexually assaulted. The accused was simply defending herself and used the only weapon she had available, her shooting pistol. The death of the deceased was a tragic accident, which would never have happened if the Comancheros had not misbehaved. At worst, the accused’s reaction was out of proportion to the assault and she would only be liable for a manslaughter. If a conviction eventuated, it should only result in a lenient sentence given the circumstances of the case.
The case was heard before Justice Cudmore and a jury of 12. Members of the Prosecution and Defence were very persuasive and the witnesses each presented convincing testimony. The jury took 30 minutes to deliberate and returned a verdict of not guilty to the charge of murder, but guilty to the charge of manslaughter.
Glennie thanks Mr Greg Cudmore for his role as Supreme Court judge, Dr Andrew Hemming and Mrs Michelle Hemming for preparing each legal team, and St George State High School, The School of Total Education, Toowoomba State High School (Mount Lofty) and Toowoomba State High School (Wilsonton) for forming the jury.
The Year 11 Legal Studies girls are to be commended for their preparation and dedication leading up to the Moot Court presentation.
Click here to view the photo gallery. Photo credit: Keira Groves