Lismore contempt case bounced back to local court

CONTEMPT charges against a woman who refused to answer questions about an alleged family violence attack have been handed back to Lismore Local Court.

Elizabeth Dangerfield told police her brother had punched her in the nose, but changed her story when she went on the stand in July last year.

She testified during the common assault hearing that she had fabricated the claim in a drunken effort to get her children back.

Her brother had been looking after them.

Ms Dangerfield said she was extremely drunk, was slurring her words and had trouble standing when police interviewed her.

The magistrate gave leave for her to be treated as an unfavourable witness because "the version of events that (she) describes in her statement is completely at odds with the version of events she's given in oral testimony".

Audio of the police interview was played, with the prosecution arguing "it didn't sound as if you were slurring your words".

Sound bites from 000 calls she made were also played to back up the assertion.

Ms Dangerfield refused to give any more answers about why she told police one thing and the court another.

"Stop talking to me, I'm not answering your questions," she said.

The magistrate found her testimony and silence amounted to contempt, and the case was handed up to the NSW Supreme Court.

However, Justice Michael Adams found the court's failure to ask whether Ms Dangerfield wished to make submissions on whether she should be held in contempt meant she had been denied procedural fairness.

He ordered the matter back to the Lismore Local Court to decide on its fate.

"Even if I had a power not to do so (which I doubt), this is a criminal matter and, unless some significant and weighty public interest suggests otherwise, the exercise of the discretion should favour the defendant," he said.


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