The Fletcher matter looks like an open and shut case,
..... a case that should not have been opened should now be shut.
It won’t be and that is the real question on the table for discussion.
At the court --G4 at the Downing Centre
I sat in on the opening addresses by ‘the crown’ and the ‘defence’ to the jury on Wednesday and Thursday.
All would be pleased to have Her Honour Judge Tupman in charge of any legal matter of personal interest – and that is just the top of the list of other points of pleasant interest.
Everyone at the bar table is very civil -- smiling and shaking hands.
Stephen Fletcher, the person charged with 78 criminal offences, makes an excellent impression as an open book.
His family is at court -- unable to comprehend that No.1 son could be convicted as a criminal.
Apart from that there seems to be no disagreement on the essential facts.
Mr Fletcher did make bets with corporate bookmakers on accounts in the name of others.
The contentious question, apparently, is whether such activity (bowler-bets) is fairly assessed as being akin to ‘deception’ and taking ‘financial advantage’ of a bookmaker.
The public policy issues
The first issue of a public policy nature is why this prosecution was launched.
Bookmakers have interacted with bowlers for ever – and in recent years using computer based online accounts.
I have no indication that any other bowler has been prosecuted.
The decision to prosecute is presumably discretionary – and that begs the question of why select Mr Fletcher.
Of all the bowlers who have ever bowled a ball -- why was Mr Fletcher selected.
Then let your mind wander over a host of otherwise extraneous issues ...............about Mr Fletcher’s relationships with prominent people ............................about the involvement of serving and former police officers in the conduct of accounts used for anonymous ‘bowler bets’ ............ and, even, possibly, Mr Fletcher successfully appealing a penalty of Racing Queensland for inferences about the outcome of some winning bets.
There is a bit of background here – not least that the bets in question were placed some five or more years ago.
If bowler-bets were to be discouraged why has the 'test case' been held over for so long -- and why is the crown prosecuting a 'criminal' charge when the corporate bookmakers could have taken civil action.
There is also a bit of ‘foreground’ – the costs of running this case are, frankly, enormous.
The costs of defending the charges will be met by Mr Fletcher – with presumably no scope to recover those costs from the crown if he is found not guilty.
If this matter were to run for some four or five weeks -- some 20 days – then with little change from a cost-per-day averaging some $10,000 for Mr Fletcher – he could be up for some $250,000.
..... and that abstracts from the comparable cost to taxpayers for the crown prosecution, the jury of 12, and the Judge and the court costs.
A wandering mind might wonder if this case was a sensible use of such an enormous amount of money for an alleged offence that could be obviated by a change to the rules of running a corporate bookmaking business.
... the punters case rests
A second public policy issues is about the nature of the betting relationship
Put sharply, one party was putting on bets recorded in the name of another with a business holding itself out to be a ‘bookmaker’ but running the business in a way which closed the accounts of Mr Fletcher, and others, considered more likely to win than lose.
In the minds of most punters businesses pretending to be bookmakers deserve to have any and everything bowled at them for starters – ahead of their license terms being altered to require that they accept ‘all bets’ up to a regulated loss-limit (as are regular on-course bookmakers).
No doubt over the next couple of weeks the nature of all this business will be explored in minute detail – the likely semantics would baffle the Bard – let alone 12 good jury-persons.
I have no intention of going back to this court for this matter.
My own mind was made up well before it got to a formal hearing and the relevant posts are above.