James Desmond Murphy, 38, won his appeal in Lismore District Court.
James Desmond Murphy, 38, won his appeal in Lismore District Court.

‘Selfish, stupid, dangerous’ man appeals COVID conviction

A North Coast man convicted of threatening police and refusing to comply with COVID-19 rules has won his appeal to lessen his sentence.

James Desmond Murphy, 38, appeared before Lismore District Court on Wednesday for his appeal hearing.

The Banora Point man was convicted in December 2020 of not complying with a direction about the COVID-19 pandemic, failing to leave when required, using offensive language in public, intimidating police, and intimidation.

He was then sentenced to a concurrent nine-month fixed-term sentence, however, he was granted bail in December.

Court documents reveal Murphy went to the Ivory Tavern in Tweed Heads on August 10, 2020.

The father-of-one refused to provide ID or sign into the COVID-19 safe tracking app and intimidated and threatened the manager.

When asked to leave, Murphy called the manager "a soft c---".

"If someone is going to kick me out it will need to be by force and it will be a tough morning for those f------ dogs," he said, according to court documents.

After he refused to leave the premises, police were called.


Ivory Tavern, Tweed Heads
Ivory Tavern, Tweed Heads


Murphy eventually left the pub and was in the car park when police arrived.

He again refused to give his name or any ID when asked, and became aggressive and abusive towards officers.

The court heard Murphy had threatened to "cave in" the head of one of the officers and threaten to "kill" those officers in attendance.

During his appeals hearing, Murphy's barrister James McNab said his client had served the four months he was sentenced for failing to comply with a COVID-19 direction.

He was appealing to the court to grant him parole instead of serving for the full nine-month fix-term sentence period for the other charges, which expires in May.

Mr McNab said Murphy, who is the primary carer for his two-year-old son, had a "realisation" about the seriousness of his actions.

"He is now starting to engage with mental health professionals," Mr McNab said.

"He knows his behaviour that day was obnoxious and belligerent.

"(He's taking) genuine rehabilitative steps so he doesn't find himself in this position (again)."

The court heard Murphy has been before the court for a series of serious offences dating back as far as 2005.

Despite Judge Jeffery McLennan calling Murphy's actions "selfish, stupid and dangerous", he said Murphy had shown he had actively worked on seeking essential rehabilitative steps.

"Once again he finds himself before a criminal court in relation to behaviour that was intimidating to others and given the social context, we all find ourselves in with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was extraordinarily stupid and ignorant and selfish behaviour," Judge McLennan said.

"One reason no doubt for the sentence of Mr Murphy, was to drive home a deterrence to Mr Murphy which between 2005 and 2020 seems to have completely alluded him.

"It seems to me that the realisation he might be parted from his family, particularly his son, has … (forced him to conclude) the wrongfulness of his conduct."

Judge McLennan said while the original fixed-term sentence of nine-months wasn't "excessive", he was willing to grant the appeal to provide a non-parole period of four-months.

Murphy was granted parole, having served the four-months in jail already prior to being granted bail in December.

"I want to make it pretty clear Mr McNab that if your client makes the mistake of finding himself before me again, he won't be given this degree of leniency again," Judge McLennan said.