Lowes to face court in May after case adjourned again

THE long-running legal saga involving former Warrnambool city councillor Jennifer Lowe and her husband Robert has again been adjourned for a contested court hearing.

Mrs Lowe, 38, was charged in July 2011 with theft-related offences alleged to have occurred while she was the finance officer with Warrnambool’s Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Co-operative.

She was originally charged with 49 offences involving about $25,000 and her 40-year-old husband faced two representative charges, involving goods valued at just over $17,000, after a two-year Warrnambool police investigation.

The charges jumped to almost 600 alleged offences after the use of a fuel card was broken down into individual transactions on the eve of a committal hearing. Mr and Mrs Lowe both previously entered not guilty pleas to all charges. 

The case was yesterday set down for a four-week contested hearing in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court starting on May 26. 

Bail for the Lowes has been extended until that date.

A special mention hearing has been scheduled for May 5 when a number of legal issues are expected to be raised including the admissibility of evidence.

Defence counsel Damian Sheales told the court yesterday there was no possibility the case would be resolved.

“You can put your last dollar on this (defence) not falling over,” he assured magistrate Peter Mellas.

“You can put your shirt, your tie, shoes, the lot on that. There will be subpoenas issued in relation to payments of $45,000 but we do not expect anything to come of that.”

Mr Sheales said he previously made an 80-page no-case submission and future admissibility arguments would involve one of the key witnesses dying part way through giving evidence.

Mr Mellas ordered the prosecution file an opening address and other relevant documentation prior to May 5 and requires the defence to provide a response.

Prosecutor Daniel Porceddu said all the prosecution evidence was ready to go as that information had been prepared for a County Court trial including books for jurors to identify proposed exhibits.

In March last year Mrs and Mr Lowe were committed to stand trial on theft-related charges in the County Court.

The committal started on April 2, 2012, continued in July and lengthy written submissions were made by Mr Sheales and Mr Porceddu late that year before magistrate Ann McGarvie committed the couple to stand trial.

But the case has now been returned to the magistrates court jurisdiction after a successful defence submission was made in mid-December last year that the appropriate venue for the case was the magistrates court.