Russell Mathews at Ipswich Courthouse.  Photo: Ross Irby
Russell Mathews at Ipswich Courthouse. Photo: Ross Irby

‘16+yo Schoolboys FREE SEX’ sign deemed obscene by court

A BIG sign erected in an Ipswich man's front yard that states "16+yo Schoolboys FREE SEX - no catholics drugs cigs grog' has been ruled obscene by a court magistrate.

Booval's self-proclaimed political activist Russell Gordon Haig Mathews, 71, was charged when police from Springfield's child protection unit raided his home at night and dismantled the 4m by 3m sign after receiving complaints.

Seated behind the glass wall of the dock in Ipswich Magistrates Court on Friday, Mathews refused to lodge a plea to a charge alleging that he without lawful justification or excuse exposed to public view an obscene object (sign) tending to corrupt morals between February 1 and February 4, 2019.

Russell Haig Mathews.
Russell Haig Mathews.

He is in custody on other unrelated matters.

With Mathews maintaining he was not guilty of any offence and that it was a political sign, magistrate Elizabeth Hall recorded a not guilty plea.

The police prosecution continued as a defended hearing.

"I'm not fit to plead. I have a brain injury," Mathews said.

"There is no way I'll be pleading guilty cause I'm not."

He also demanded that Ms Hall excuse herself from hearing the case claiming perceived bias because she had found him guilty in a dispute over his signs with Ipswich City Council.

He had not attended that court hearing in January and was fined $33,000.

Ms Hall found no legal grounds to excuse herself, saying "I've not seen you before" and continued.

Police prosecutor Jack Scott said Mathews had capacity, understood legal proceedings and was fit to stand trial given the health material before the court.

Mathews, clad in his usual court attire of a white T-shirt with red letters stating 'police are corrupt, courts corrupt', said he was being "railroaded on trumped up charges".

Mathews said he was entitled to legally represent himself as he had a law degree but needed to do so in writing to help his thought process because of his disability.

Mr Scott said if found guilty of the offence police would seek a fine between $800 and $1600.

Mathews said he was defending the charge on the grounds that the sign was "political communication".

Detective senior constable Georgina Yarrow from Springfield Child Protection Investigation Unit said officers arrived with a warrant at Mathews' house at 8.15pm on February 3.

She said the sign in his front yard faced Brisbane Road and included the words free sex in large red letters.

It was illuminated and easily seen from 200 metres away at the traffic lights and nearby KFC store.

Recorded audio taken by police with Mathews was played to the court, with police seizing the offending sign.

Mathews told the officers he would take it down or paint over it but the sign was unscrewed and taken along with Mathews to Ipswich police station.

As the hearing proceeded Mathews maintained his argument it was "a political communication".

At one stage Ms Hall commented that his behaviour was "bullying".

She also asked him to briefly stand so she could read the text on his T-shirt.

"I note the clothing you have worn today," Ms Hall said.

"It's political," Mathews said.

"Are you allowed to wear that in court," she said.

"Well I'm wearing it. I've not been told not to wear it," Mathews said.

Mr Scott argued that the issue for the court was whether the sign itself "is an object tending to corrupt morals" and consideration as to what is or is not obscene.

He also based his submission on a High Court decision in 1968 by Justice Windeyer which in part involved whether the publication transgress the generally accepted bounds of decency, common sense, and community standards.

"The public effectively could not ignore his sign. The words suggest someone is seeking a liaison with a 16-year-old schoolboy," Mr Scott said.

"To people passing on busy Brisbane Road the sign is clearly visible. It was illuminated at night.

"Children under the age of 16 would be exposed to the sign. Parents of children would be confronted by it.

"Children are more vulnerable to corruptive influences. And the way this sign deals with sexual matters exceeds general decency."

Mathews argued that the legal age of sexual consent for boys was 16 and that his sign states "16 plus".

He said his intention with the sign was "to excite more discussion and emotional upset" and bring attention to his adjacent political signs.

"The whole point of the sign was to attract attention to the political signs. I want that on the record," Mathews said.

"It is not an obscene picture. Or what is now being spoken about the behaviour in (federal) parliament."

Ms Hall noted his argument that people would be so upset by the sign it would provoke discussion.

She said that in her view the subject on the sign was not political discourse.

Ms Hall found that being so prominently displayed it did breach community standards, and deeply offensive with its reference to schoolchildren and free sex.

"It would be abhorrent to most people viewing the sign, drawing derision and some disgust," she said.

Ms Hall said it was obscene in that it went beyond the boundary of expected limits of public decency.

She found Mathews guilty of the charge.

"It was obscene and disgusting. A breach of community standards," she said.

"It brings you and your household into disrepute to put up such an unpleasant statement."

Taking into consideration his recent large court fines, Ms Hall convicted and fined him $500, which was sent to SPER for a payment plan.

"I will be appealing this," Mathews said.

Read more stories by Ross Irby here.



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