Recent Cases

Coughlan v The Queen [2020] HCA 15 (24 April 2020) (Kiefel CJ, Bell, Gageler, Keane and Edelman JJ)


Criminal law – Arson and attempted fraud – Appeal against conviction – Where prosecution case based on circumstantial evidence – Where appellant’s house destroyed by explosion and resulting fire – Where appellant present at and seen running away from scene – Where appellant gave version of events to police consistent with innocence – Where appellant made insurance claim on house and contents in connection with fire – Where no apparent financial motive to commit offences – Where expert evidence that explosion caused by build-up of gaseous vapours – Where petrol residues found on appellant’s clothes – Where no evidence of petrol residues in house – Whether open to jury to be satisfied of appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt – Whether prosecution excluded reasonable possibility that explosion caused by build-up of gas ignited by electrical fire.

Words and phrases – “absence of apparent financial motive”, “arson”, “attempted fraud”, “beyond reasonable doubt”, “circumstantial case”, “consciousness of guilt”, “inference consistent with innocence”, “lack of motive”, “reasonable possibility”, “scientific evidence”.