WARRNAMBOOL City councillor Jennifer Lowe was slapped with an additional 300 charges on the eve of yesterday’s sometimes fiery three-day court committal hearing.
Frantic efforts by astonished defence counsel Damian Sheales to adjourn yesterday’s Warrnambool Magistrates Court hearing so he could examine the new charges were rejected.
It is understood Warrnambool policeman Detective Senior Constable Gary Greene issued individual charges in relation to a mobile telephone and individual fuel card transactions at the urging of the Office of Public Prosecutions.
After two years of police inquiries, Ms Lowe, 38, was charged with 49 offences in July last year involving about $25,000, which included six counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception and 43 counts of obtaining property by deception when she was employed as a financial officer by the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Co-operative.
Her husband Robert Lowe, 39, faces two representative charges, involving goods valued at just over $17,000.
At the opening of yesterday’s committal hearing, Mr Sheales said that Ms Lowe’s number of charges had gone from about 40 and Mr Lowe’s from just a couple to a total now of more than 600 charges by the splitting up of the most meaningful offences.
He said that as of 10.30pm Monday the OPP prosecutor Daniel Porceddu had not even read the new charges.
Mr Sheales labelled the process “just a joke” and claimed some of the charges had no hope of proceeding.
“It is ludicrous what is being attempted,” he said.
“The prosecution needs to point to the proof of each charge.
“It’s embarrassing what is being thrown up. What is the factual basis of the charges?”
Mr Sheales claimed it could not be proved who used a fuel card at the centre of the charges and if the vehicle filled was not on co-op business. He said it was embarrassing how long the case had been ongoing and there was no doubt most of the charges would disappear.
The defence counsel submitted the hearing should be adjourned for three months, the prosecution should outline specific evidence in relation to each charge, a committal hearing date should then be set and costs should be awarded to the defence.
Mr Perceddu said there was no change to the summary of the offences or the actual evidence.
Mr Perceddu said that charges which were previously between dates now simply related to specific dates. He said the same witnesses were being called and the same brief of evidence which stretches to about 15,000 pages was being relied on to prove the charges.
Magistrate Ann McGarvie said she accepted the brief of evidence contained exhibits that were relied on to prove the charges.
Ms McGarvie said all the alleged offences were identified, it was up to the prosecution to put its best case and at the end of the committal hearing she would make a decision.