Readers are now aware that a district court judge has over turned a conviction for ‘disposing of stolen goods’ found against community activist Michele Grant.
This result was always a good bet considering the sheer incongruity of the charge but the process itself has proved both expensive and stressful and you don’t get your money back for being innocent.
One is left to ponder the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of the prosecutorial process?
The original action was initiated by local police three months after the actual event but the origin of any complaint remains obscure.
Ms Grant’s counter-request that police pursue an action against the caravan park operators for blocking a public road was ignored.
Considering that the charge was ‘disposing’ the question has always been who actually ‘stole’ the barriers to make them available for ‘disposal’- presumably none of the dozen or so activists of which Ms Grant was the only one to enjoy police attention.
The answer perhaps lies in the nature of the charge of ‘stealing’ where it is necessary to prove ‘intent to permanently deprive’.
This was obviously not going to fly considering that the goods in question were some scruffy road barriers which were relocated to the council chambers with explanatory notes left at both ends and in the accepted belief that they actually belonged to the council.
Accordingly, the police prosecutor came up with the ‘disposal’ option.
The magistrate then spent the best part of 1.5 days of court time going through a convoluted legal rationale to to find the charge proven – $750 and a criminal record, march out Ms Grant.
In the course of the case hearing multiple witnesses appeared, mainly for the prosecution.
The van park manager and park inmates testified to the fearsome demeanour (my interpretation) of the demonstrators, especially the six-stone Ms Grant.
A senior council officer had memory lapses as to correspondence and conversations pertaining to the ownership of the barriers.
Mr Bolger of North Coast Holiday Parks sat on the court veranda with prosecution witnesses for a whole day , he did not give evidence himself.
The matter of ownership of the goods was an issue as they needed to belong to the park to sustain the charge.
With most including the council staff (another witness remembered a relevant conversation on ownership) thinking they belonged to council, there was a problem.
Rather fortuitously the caravan park manager recalled a driver who he said had delivered them to the park from a northern company destination – the magistrate adopted this version despite the driver not being called to testify.
Months later Judge Wells of the District Court took three minutes to say ‘wrong charge, conviction overturned’.
Tom Tabart. Bangalow