Menzies Transport couple jailed for contempt of court

Judge raises NSW contract review anomaly in sentence that may have brought seven year saga to an end

Menzies Transport couple jailed for contempt of court
A NSW Supreme Court judge has called for a new look at contract reviews


The long legal battle of attrition between Paccar Financial and Ian and Colleen Menzies has seen the couple imprisoned for six months and three months respectively for contempt of court.

But Justice Stephen Rothman was moved to comment on aspects of the case that may have affected the capacity of a New South Wales court to review the deal at the centre of the case.

The married couple were found guilty as charged in May for failing to produce two prime movers with trailers, after the New South Wales Supreme Court ordered them to do so in June 2013.

In sentencing earlier this month, the judge ruled the pair knew they were obliged to obey the order and deliberately and continually refused to do so.

That position meant a 2014 letter of apology and two offers of compromise held no value.

"These letters disclose no real remorse for their conduct and a continuing defiance of the Court and its authority," the judge finds.

However, he accepts expert medical evidence that Ian Menzies suffers from the effects of three "traumatic" brain injuries "and has been diagnosed with development disorder and acquired brain injury".

Evidence was given that "frontal lobe acquired brain injury has resulted in an inflexibility of thinking, abnormal obstinacy and lack of self-awareness.

"Additionally, according to the Corrective Services report, the injury has caused him to be unable to control or to regulate his emotion, impulses, planning and social judgment.

"All of these traits have reduced the first defendant’s ability to understand the consequences of his actions."

Psychological evidence relating to Colleen Menzies notes she has suffered severe depression, anxiety and high levels of stress for a number of years" and "has been, to some extent, controlled" by the husband.

The judge finds this could not deflect from their guilt but he takes into account 11 good character references in sentencing.

Meanwhile, though something of a side issue that has no bearing on the contempt case itself, a significant portion of the judge’s ‘consideration’ of sentencing judgement relates to the effect of the Commonwealth’s Fair Work Act on the ability of state courts to review contracts that may be unfair.

It stems from the couple’s claim that they understood that they were buying ‘trucks in work’, which they used as a justification for their actions.

The argument failed but the judge notes the state Contract Review Act excludes contracts entered into in the course of a trade, business or profession.

Those contracts are covered by the state Industrial Relations Act but that Act is overridden by the Fair Work Act, which "purports to exclude … the review of contracts entered into in the course of or for the purpose of a trade, business or profession".

It is an anomaly that such contracts as the only ones incapable of state court review and should itself be reviewed by state parliament, the judge says.

The NSW government has been approached for comment.



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