A prisoner mix up has led to the wrong man being put before the court and sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit.
A prisoner mix up has led to the wrong man being put before the court and sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit.

Wrong man punished in court mix-up

A prisoner mix up has led to the wrong man being put before the court and sentenced for a crime he didn't commit.

Richard Aplin, who was remanded in custody for charges including public nuisance, was mistaken for Derek Gregory Aplin by a prison officer at the Townsville Correctional Centre and brought in to appear via video-link.

Richard Aplin, described as being "hard of hearing", was arraigned, entered a plea of guilty to a domestic violence offence and was sentenced instead of Derek Aplin in the Townsville Magistrates Court to six months' jail on Thursday.

Derek Aplin's defence lawyer had only received instructions from her client over the phone and had not seen him in person at the watch house or prison due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"I've never met him so I didn't know that wasn't him on the screen, and he didn't say anything to alert the court," she said.

Magistrate Ross Mack requested Richard Aplin appear via video link again later that morning to explain the mistake.

"You'll recall a little while ago, a magistrate sentenced you to six months' jail, Mr Aplin. What I'm doing today is vacating that order," Mr Mack said.

"It seems the court was under the misapprehension that you were Derek Aplin, there was a confusion on the part of everyone involved.

"What that means is you haven't been sentenced."

Derek Aplin then appeared before Mr Mack and was asked to say his full name and date of birth before he was sentenced.

Former Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said the mistake was "extraordinarily rare".

"People nod and smile to give the impression they know what's happening … when they are awed or shocked by the whole process and anxious to get things out of the way," he said.

Mr Potts said technology was "imperfect".

"I've been reading the courts will change forever and there won't be personal appearances, for adjournments and for some of the simple stuff that's probably true," he said.

"Actually appearing in court has a big impression on people and shows the person the importance and seriousness of their offending and the seriousness of the legal process. There's no substitute for being there in person."

Richard Aplin will be sentenced at a later date.

Originally published as Wrong man punished in court mix-up