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Byron Shire
July 1, 2022

Trespassers prosecuted – or persecuted?

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The last time I looked, trespass was a criminal offence. So one wonders at the real motive of Tweed Shire Council general manager David Keenan in citing councillors Katie Milne and Gary Bagnall for a code-of-conduct violation for allegedly trespassing on a council quarry of which they are, surely, the legal custodians.

If Mr Keenan is serious, he should have reported the matter to the police. Trespassing is not an offence under the Code of Conduct. But councillors and staff are required to comply with the Local Government Act and all other acts. As the Code of Conduct reviewers have no powers to conduct a criminal investigation, Milne and Bagnall could not be found to have trespassed unless first convicted of the offence in court. So why didn’t Mr Keenan report the alleged offence to the police?

Then there is the issue of the Code of Conduct reviewer assigned to the case also being a serving police officer. Given the circumstances that criminal proceedings are still, presumably, open to Mr Keenan, the reviewer in question has a clear conflict of interest and should immediately remove himself from any hearing.

So let’s hear from Mr Keenan why, if he suspects the law has been broken, has he not referred the matter to the police? It would appear more a case of Trespassers Persecuted than Trespassers Prosecuted.

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