Judge throws out cruelty case after finding video footage inadmissible
ANIMAL cruelty prosecutions have been thrown into chaos after a judge ruled video footage of live baiting was inadmissible and threw out a charge against a greyhound trainer.
The District Court at Ipswich was told in a pre-trial hearing on Friday that animal rights activists obtained the video illegally after trespassing on private property to secretly install the cameras.
Judge Greg Koppenol accepted that the recordings should not be used.
Trainer Ian Hoggan, 64, was due to face trial today on one count of animal cruelty but instead walked free after the decision.
Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath has been informed and will have to decide whether to ask the Court of Appeal to provide a definitive ruling on the issue, The Courier-Mail has been told.
Animal Liberation Queensland activists installed the hidden cameras on a training track at Churchable, west of Ipswich, and surrounding bushland and made repeated trips to collect the footage.
The recordings caused a national furore when aired on the ABC’s Four Corners.
Mr Hoggan’s lawyer, Sam Di Carlo, prepared 18 pages of submissions for why the charge should be dismissed.
“These people trespassed, the police didn’t charge them with trespassing. So other people will be able to say ‘we’ll just go on other people’s property when we see a crime’,” Mr Di Carlo said.
He also argued that a warrant to search Mr Hoggan’s property was unlawful because it was the result of him initially being incorrectly identified in video footage.
Mr Di Carlo also told the court interviews were inadmissible.
“There was an offer to my client to make admissions on the basis of an indemnity,” he said.
Prosecutors unsuccessfully sought an adjournment to ask the Court of Appeal for a ruling on whether the video could be used.
Friday’s decision came as a surprise because District Court Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren ruled in July that the recordings were admissible in the public interest. In that case, greyhound trainer Reg Kay asked the court to throw out the footage.
Judge Horneman-Wren’s earlier ruling had paved the way for police to charge more people with animal cruelty offences.
Mr Hoggan has been suspended from involvement in greyhound racing pending the result of the criminal charge.
“I’ve been 16 months on the sidelines of an industry I’ve been involved in for 50 years,” he said yesterday.
The latest ruling came at a pivotal time, with live-baiting “kingpin” Tom Noble due to be sentenced tomorrow on animal cruelty offences. Noble’s track was used for live baiting by an array of Queensland trainers and it was there that the footage was captured.
The greyhound racing community is rejoicing over the decision, taking to social media to celebrate the court win.
“Yesterday Ian had his day in court and after what I understand was a brilliant performance by his barrister, the judge ruled that Ian had no case to answer. A result for the goodies,’’ wrote industry insider Garry Carson.