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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

R v Daniels

The case R v Daniels is a manslaughter case. John Bodie Daniels killed his partner Ms Janelle Tahuri when he violently pushed her into a wall on the 31st of October 2002, early in the morning. Ms Tahuri suffered serious brain injuries and later died in hospital. The violent incident started when Mr. Daniels thought that Ms Tahuri was cheating on him. The couple had two children. There were no witnesses to the violence although neighbours could hear a commotion.
Mr. Daniels was tried for murder in the New South Wales Supreme Court. Daniels pleaded that he did not have the mens rea to kill Ms. Tahuri. To be found guilty in any criminal case the defendant must have mens rea (intention to commit the crime), actus reus (actually committing the crime) and causation (the link between the defendant’s actions and the crime). Mr. Daniels’s crime had actus reus and causation evident, but no mens rea. The jury concluded that he did not have mens rea to kill, and therefore found him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The case firstly had to be heard in the local court at a committal hearing. This hearing is done to determine whether or not the case is a prima facie case (enough evidence for the case to be tried). A prima facie case was found to exist. The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to hear the most indictable criminal cases, such as serious sexual assault, murder and manslaughter. The court has appellate jurisdiction, which means it can hear appeals from lower courts. The Supreme Court’s rulings create precedent in which lower courts must follow when deciding upon a sentence. The Supreme Court is the highest state court. Someone found guilty in the Supreme Court can appeal the decision to the Court of Criminal appeal or the High Court.
(I HAVE A REENACTMENT OF THE CRIME HERE). Daniels was drinking prior to the attack and this had an impact on his actions but the judge could not conclude to what extent. Daniels acknowledged that he said to Ms. Tahuri “Go in and show the f****** kids your face”. Ms. Tahuri claimed that she was bleeding from the face at the time Daniels said this. He denied her face was bleeding and it was just a comment to show the kids her guilt. Daniels then proceeded to throw Ms. Tahuri into the wall which caused her serious brain injuries and was the cause of her death. The police were called by neighbours and Daniels was arrested that morning. The police did not have to investigate too much because Daniels was still in the house with Tahuri’s body. He was very uncooperative with the police. They arrested him that morning and he’s been in custody from that time until his trial.
John Daniels was born in New Zealand and had a disturbed upbringing (the judge said it was unnecessary to recite his childhood). He left high school before he reached year nine. He has broken the law on more than one occasion. He has been from the lower end of the socio economic scale throughout his life. These factors all contributed to Daniels criminal behaviour and he therefore fits the typical criminal profile made by the Australian Institute of Criminology. In New Zealand he had a criminal record, mainly made up of offences of dishonesty. He has been convicted in NSW three times for summary offences all arising from the same incident. For one of the offenses meant that he was placed on a 12 month bond that was still in place at the time of the manslaughter. Daniels was a ‘heavy’ user of cannabis during his earlier years and has been a heavy drinker throughout his life. Daniels has had a reasonable employment record in unskilled positions in Australia and New Zealand.
During the trial in the Supreme Court on the 14.12.04, a report from Daniels psychologist, Mr. John Machlin was used. The report said that Daniels had said that his relationship with Tahuri had experienced some difficulties. It also said that between them there had “probably been some physical stuff but not violence”.
Mr. Kirk Stenhouse, another psychologist, in a report said that Daniels had a long history of self harm but without suicidal intent. Most of the self harm incidents occurred because of relationship conflict. Stenhouse’s report also said that Daniels was ‘someone who would benefit from the KWTU (Kevin Waller Therapeutic Unit) program due to his paucity of skills of managing emotional difficulties’. ‘His intelligence is just below average and his personality is characterised by depression, a lack of self esteem and a pre occupation with securing affection, leading to “conflicting feelings such as rage, love and guilt towards others’.
Tahuri’s parents compiled a victim impact statement which explained the lasting effect of her death upon them and her two children. The judge said that he didn’t find it appropriate to regard the statement when determining a sentence.
The judge took note of previous cases such as R v Nardoni and was mindful of the observations of Spigelman CJ in R v Berg (2004). This case was similar to Daniels but the defendant pleaded guilty and made out a stronger, subjective case. The judge took this into account and said that he would impose a harsher sentence on Daniels than Nardoni. The judge also took into account the fact that there was no weapon used and that the attack was unplanned. The judge also said that there was a reasonable chance of rehabilitation. He found special circumstances to make the non parole period less than the statutory amount, although he was aware that the sentence he gave had to adequately reflect considerations of retribution and deterrence.
 The defence used partial defences, such as intoxication and stressed that Daniels did not intend to kill his partner.  Daniels was sentenced to eight years in prison with a non parole period of five years.
The sentence the judge handed to Daniels was a severe punishment in relation to the previous punishments the judge had handed down in past manslaughter cases. The judge sentenced Daniels this way so that it would deter other people from committing the same sort of crime. This case is a typical reflection of the Australian legal system because quite often the judge will sentence the accused a little more harshly than usual in order to deter people from the crime.
For the fact that Daniels case was used by the judge as a deterrent (to a degree) begs the question, have Daniels rights been infringed upon? Deterrence do not prevent spare of the moment crimes. This being said Daniels’ case should not have been used as a deterrent. Society has the right for criminals to go to prison, be punished for their crime and be protected from the offender. Daniels however has the right not to get a harsher penalty than is necessary. The rights of society and the offender in this case and in general can be imbalanced because of harsher penalties. The issue of equality is also raised because of the fact that Daniels was arrested and was kept in custody for a little over two years. It is not fair or just if someone is kept in prison for such a long period of time without even being tried. If he was found not guilty he would have spent two years in jail when he shouldn’t have. This is a major issue concerning the Australian legal system; however it is a typical reflection upon it.
Ms. Tahuri’s family would believe that the punishment handed to Daniels was not harsh enough and that justice was not achieved. If the family accepted that the case was a manslaughter case not a murder case then they would feel that the sentence was just. The reason that the family would accept the sentence is because the sentence was one of the harsher sentences placed upon the defendant by the judge.
Accessibility to the court was a problem for this case. The prosecution could not try Daniels for over two years. He was held in custody from the time he was arrested, 31/10/02 until the days of his hearing and the sentencing hearing, on the 14/12/04. Accessibility problems typically reflect the Australian legal system, with many indictable cases taking a long time before the case is heard in court. In order to try and overcome accessibility problems concerning cost and knowledge, legal aid was introduced. However legal aid was not used in any way in this case. Daniels would not have known his rights as the accused because he wouldn’t have had the knowledge. Knowledge of the legal system is a major problem that causes people to be unfairly treated at times. Accessibility concerns such as time, knowledge and cost are all problems that reflect the legal system and are common problems.
Enforceability in indictable cases is not as a troubled factor in the legal system and not in this case. As most people should feel that indictable criminal laws are enforced adequately and don’t go unnoticed.
Recourses used by the police were used quite efficiently. This can be said because Daniels was arrested, interrogated and charged without any delays or actions which stretched police resources in any way.
John Daniels’ case is a typical and relatively straight forward case that the criminal justice system has to deal with on regular occasions. Society would feel that the outcome of the case was a fair one; the family however would feel that no punishment was a fair one compared to what there punishment is. The problems associated with this case, the procedure and the outcomes are all typical reflections of the Australian legal system.


  1. All the cases are great to use as examples in exams and assessments. Will definitely do some further reading.

  2. Jonelle was one of my best friends. The pain and suffering that her family have been through is beyond words. She was a smart, funny and beautiful girl,a great mother and even greater friend. I miss her all the time. We all do.

    1. Thinking of you my friend .... big heart, warm, awesome laugh, loving and a great friend .... she is sorely missed even after all these years, I cant help but shed a tear for her. Love and warmth to you and your family Jonelle


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