Prosecutor's change of CSG protestors' charges proves costly

KNITTING NANNAS: Suzanne Golden of Ulmarra, Jenny Leunig of Goonellabah and Clare Twomey of North Lismore showing support for Alan Roberts (second from right) outside Maclean Court House ahead of his test case on charges arising from the Glenugie CSG protests. Photo: Tim Howard
KNITTING NANNAS: Suzanne Golden of Ulmarra, Jenny Leunig of Goonellabah and Clare Twomey of North Lismore showing support for Alan Roberts (second from right) outside Maclean Court House ahead of his test case on charges arising from the Glenugie CSG protests. Photo: Tim Howard

A MAGISTRATE has awarded the defence of two Glengugie CSG protesters $5610 in costs for what he described as the "unreasonable" behaviour of the police prosecution.

Yesterday Maclean Local Court was to begin hearing the test cases of Bradley Rankin and Alan Roberts, which were to become the template for trying about 20 other demonstrators arrested at Glenugie on January 7.

Roberts faced charges of being a pedestrian obstructing a driver and Rankin of hindering police in the execution of their duty.

Instead the police prosecutor informed the court the charges had been withdrawn on Thursday and fresh charges had been laid on Monday.

The charges were filed electronically at Maclean Court House on Monday, beating a six-month statute of limitations for laying charges by a few hours.

Neither Magistrate David Heilpern nor the defence team of barrister Ben Cochrane and solicitor Philip Wykeham had been issued paper copies of the fresh charges. They had been of the view the charges had been withdrawn and the case was to be dropped.

Roberts now faces a charge of attempting to obstruct a driver and Rankin of attempting to hinder police.

Magistrate David Heilpern described the situation as a "shemozzle" and at one stage left the bench to see if he had the authority to issue a permanent stay of proceedings.

On his return he gave the defence the option of proceeding with the case or asking for an adjournment. The defence took the second option and the charges will now be listed for mention at Ballina on August 15.

Mr Heilpern awarded the defence costs for Mr Wykeham and Mr Cochrane's time in attempting to prepare a new case after believing the previous case had been dropped.

"The police had from January 7 to decide what charges they were going to lay and to change them on the death knell of the expiry of the six-month limit after unequivocally withdrawing the previous charges is in my view unreasonable," Mr Heilpern said.

Outside the court Mr Wykeham said he was not sure if these cases could continue to run as a test case for other protesters.

Topics:  coal seam gas glenugie maclean local court

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