FORMER Warrnambool City councillor Jennifer Lowe has vowed to run for a spot on the council again.
Less than 24 hours after the end of her six-year battle to clear her and her husband Robert’s names against allegations of financial impropriety, Mrs Lowe said she was keen to continue what she had started in 2008.
“Yeah, I’ll give it a crack,” she said.
“I still have really strong principles about good governance, accountability, fairness, and transparency.”
She said “it went without saying” that the allegations against her had affected her chances in the 2012 Warrnambool City Council elections, where she lost her seat in the council chambers.
But with the legal struggle behind her — the prosecution unceremoniously withdrew more than 600 charges against Mr and Mrs Lowe on day three of a four-week contested hearing — she can finally look to the future.
Tomorrow, Mrs Lowe turns 40. She said she always wanted a big party for her 40th but hadn’t dared to plan one because it landed in what would have been the middle of their contested hearing.
Now she’s thinking that big party might be possible ... once she gets two exams for her legal degree out of the way.
Mrs Lowe said studying law had been a great distraction during the past few years of her and her husband’s own legal fight.
But the biggest help had been from her friends and family.
“(They’ve) supported us the whole time — there’s too many to name, but we appreciate their great support,” she said.
“There was always somebody there to pick me up and support me.”
She was also full of praise for her legal team of Damian Sheales and Tony Robinson, but admitted they hadn’t come cheap. “We had to concede that we may lose our home (in order to pay the legal fees),” Mrs Lowe said.
But the thought of losing their home wasn’t the lowest point during the six-year struggle.
Surprisingly, that came when she could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The lowest point for us was six weeks ago when we were going through the subpoenaed documents,” she said.
“The (contested hearing) was coming up and we just felt so much disappointment looking at the records and seeing the evidence was there to clear us all along ... we’re not supposed to have to prove our innocence, they were supposed to prove our guilt.
“They didn’t follow due process — if they’d just done that six years ago none of this waste of time and energy would have ever happened.”
The 600-plus charges against the Lowes amounted to about $20,000 worth of alleged impropriety. The prosecution’s pursuit of the matter is understood to have cost taxpayers at least 10 times that. The defence and prosecution will return to court on June 10 to discuss costs, where it is expected Mr Sheales will argue for an amount in the vicinity of $300,000 or $400,000.
Mrs Lowe said she doesn’t care about the money, although she’s happy to be able to keep her house.
The money won’t undo the effect the whole saga had on her family, she said.
“My girls ... they were just babies when this began,” Mrs Lowe said of her daughters Tathra, 13, and Indi, 20.
“It’s been incredibly unfair on small children (but) the strength of my girls ... their capacity to deal with it has overwhelmed me.
“They have shown maturity beyond their years.”
She said the ordeal had given her renewed respect and appreciation for her husband.
Perhaps the last word about the matter should go to him.
During a break in court proceedings on Wednesday, just minutes before the prosecution returned to ask for the charges to be withdrawn, Mr Lowe approached Shannon Collyer, the man who had kick-started the proceedings against them and who was the hearing’s first, and ultimately only, witness.
Mr Lowe had to be warned later by the magistrate not to talk to witnesses, but even the magistrate was impressed by what had taken place.
Mr Lowe had told Mr Collyer he forgave him.