UPDATE: Gympie jury considers council fracas verdicts
UPDATE, Friday May 31, 2.30pm
A GYMPIE District Court jury has retired to consider its verdicts on the remaining charges against three Aboriginal land rights activists, after the uproar that erupted during a protest at Gympie Regional Council's Mary St offices exactly one year ago today.
Wit-boooka (Gary Tomlinson), Diane Redden-King and Mervyn Tomlinson have pleaded not guilty to eight charges each, including one alleging forcible entry to the council office building to cause reasonable alarm to Gympie Region mayor Mick Curran.
Judge Bernard Porter this morning directed the jury to acquit two of the three, Diane Redden-King and Mervyn Tomlinso, of that charge.
He ruled that the two should be acquitted as a matter of law, leaving Wit-boooka still awaiting the jury verdict on the facts of that matter.
All three still face four charges each of assault, two each of assault with bodily harm and one each of serious assault of a police officer in the course of his duty.
Judge Porter asked jurors to begin their closed-door deliberations over a lunch of sandwiches in the jury room, where they are expected to remain for at least the rest of today, unless they produce a unanimous verdict before being sent home.
Judge Porter described the case, which has taken up almost all the court's current Gympie sittings, as "a little more complex than most.”
The judge took more than two hours to sum up the essence of evidence and the final address submissions of four leading barristers assigned to the case - Crown prosecutor Ryder Reid, Tony McAvoy QC (for Wit-boooka), Andrew Preston (for Mervyn Tomlinson) and David Yarrow (for Diane Redden-King).
UPDATE, Friday May 31, 2019, 11:10am
A GYMPIE District Court jury has been directed to return not guilty verdicts for two out of three Aboriginal land rights activists, accused of entering Gympie Regional Council offices, on this day three years ago, to cause reasonable alarm to Mayor Mick Curran.
The two acquittals apply to the unlawful entry charge against Diane Redden-King, of Curra, and Mervyn Tomlinson, of Bundaberg.
Jurors must now consider their collective verdict on the same charge, as levelled against Wit-boooka (Gary Tomlinson, of Southside).
Judge Bernard Porter ruled there was insufficient evidence on that charge against Ms Redden-King and Mr Mervyn Tomlinson.
This, he said, was a matter of law on which the jury must adhere to his directions.
All three still face four charges of assault, two of assault with bodily harm and one of serious assault of a police officer.
Judge Porter instructed the jurors to ignore any feelings of sympathy or prejudice and any media reports or other external influences.
He said they must make their decisions solely on the evidence before them.
They were to judge the facts of the matter, Judge Porter said, and he would direct them on matters of law.
BREAKING NEWS: Gympie council land rights fracas latest - Friday, May 31, 9am
A DISTRICT Court judge has begun his summing up of evidence from one of Gympie's longest and most unusual trials, that of three Aboriginal land rights activists facing assault and trespass charges after violence broke out at Gympie Regional Council's Mary St offices three years ago today.
Judge Bernard Porter is presenting his detailed summary of nearly two weeks of evidence and procedural debate in Gympie District Court.
His address is expected to take most of the morning, with all evidence now finished, along with the final addresses of Crown and defence barristers, who finished their submission to the jury yesterday.
Land rights activist Wit-boooka (charged as Gary Tomlinson of Southside) has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, as have his co-accused, Diane Redden-King of Curra and Mervyn Tomlinson of Bundaberg.
Ms Redden-King and Mervyn Tomlinson are alleged to have supported Wit-boooka, who has been seen on video climbing over the council's front counter and telling council staff they were being evicted from what he has claimed is Aboriginal land.
Mervyn Tomlinson, alone among the three accused, exercised his right to give evidence and told the court his only role was to try to minimise the violence which began in the council's call centre office soon after 11.30am.
Crown prosecutor Ryder Reid has said Wit-boooka's actions were criminal and caused reasonable alarm to mayor Mick Curran, who he has said threw a "pre-emptive punch,” described by Cr Curran in his evidence as a open handed strike.
Cr Curran said he had acted to protect council executive Dimitri Scordalides, who he said received a strike to the chest.
Defence barristers have said Wit-boooka's nose was severely broken by the mayor's strike to his face, which they have said was unwarranted and excessive. No-one had been injured until then, the defence said.
Mr Reid said the mayor had responded appropriately in trying to protect council staff members and should not be considered out of order just because he had responded, rather than ignoring what was happening.
Ms Redden-King's barrister, David Yarrow, told the court her actions in video recording the fracas that followed could not be considered support for Wit-boooka's actions.
Mervyn Tomlinson's barrister Andrew Preston said his client had tried to prevent further violence by putting himself between the mayor and Wit-boooka, as had council CEO Bernard Smith, who has told the court he was trying to intervene in ways which would "de-escalate” the violent situation which had quickly developed.
A jury of 12 local people is expected to consider their verdict this afternoon, as the case draws to a close.
Judge Porter has told the jury of one instance of "improper interference” with a jury and has warned media and citizens with social media accounts against publishing any images of jurors, saying this would also be an interference which could be a crime of obstructing justice, a breach of the Jury Act and a contempt of court.
Wit-boooka's representative, Tony McAvoy QC, has told jurors Wit-boooka had made a legitimate land rights protest, but Mr Reid said it was an issue of unlawful trespassing rather than land rights.