Andrew Edwards put in a claim for the 23 cattle and the case has gone to Queensland Court of Appeal.
Andrew Edwards put in a claim for the 23 cattle and the case has gone to Queensland Court of Appeal. John Weekes

Beef over cattle ownership goes to state's highest court

A LEGAL wrangle over 23 cattle has brought a south-western grazier 865km to the state's highest court.

On Thursday, Queensland Court of Appeal heard the cattle were moved from a station near Charleville to Roma, and sold after a magistrate could not decide who owned them.

Wyandra cattle producer Andrew Edwards maintains his claim to the unbranded cattle.

An agent took the cattle during a January 2016 muster at Elverston Station that was next to Mr Edwards's property.

Other parties including police observed the muster.

But Mr Edwards was only told two or three days before the muster, and was not there.

Disputes and debates emerged involving three other farmers over the ownership of the animals.

For nearly eight months, police kept the animals, and then a magistrate could not be satisfied who owned the cattle.

The magistrate ordered the animals be sold, as allowed under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act, and Roma District Court later dismissed an appeal against that decision.

Mr Edwards told the appeal court that farmers who claimed to have decided proceeds from selling the cattle should go to charity had no right to do so.

He wanted to bring forward further evidence, saying the Roma magistrate erred in not allowing cross-examination to establish who actually owned the cattle.

Mr Edwards said he never got the chance to ask questions which "would have exposed any untruths in the affidavit material” earlier in the dispute.

He told the appeal court the case was in "the public interest”.

He said police kept the cattle longer than they were allowed to.

"After 30 days you could have made an application to get them back from police but you didn't,” Justice Jackson said.

Justice David Jackson asked if Mr Edwards wanted to dispute whether these were cleanskin (unbranded) cattle, and the answer was No.

The appeal court said other parties agreed the cattle had wandered freely where fences were in a state of disrepair, but after Thursday's hearing Mr Edwards disputed that.

"I've been trying to get cattle out of there since May 2014,” Mr Edwards told NewsRegional.

He said it was worth taking the case to the appeal court, even though he had no lawyer representing him.

"Justice has got to be there, no matter how hard it is on you.”

Mr Edwards said the animals lost condition in the eight months between the muster and the magistrate's decision.

He said the 23 animals included heifers, cows, calves and some males.

Mr Edwards said the area he worked mostly had properties ranging in size from about 12,000-32,000ha.

The court on Thursday refused his appeal to add further evidence but reserved its decision on his application for leave to appeal the lower court's decision.