VERDICT: Outcome of controversial Gympie council fracas
FINAL UPDATE: Saturday, June 1, 4.30pm
A GYMPIE jury has acquitted Aboriginal activist Djaki Widjung (Diane Patricia Redden-King) of all charges against her, in a sensational end to two weeks of evidence and nearly ten hours of jury deliberations, ending at 3pm Saturday afternoon.
The jury also acquitted Djaa 'mee Gular Djan du Kabi (Mervyn Tomlinson) of all but one charge, finding him guilty of serious assault on a police officer towards the end of the five minutes of violence and chaos that occurred at Gympie Regional Council's Mary St offices about 11.30am on May 31, 2016.
Wit-boooka (Gary Roy Tomlinson) was found guilty of forcible entry to the council's non-public area and three charges of common assault, as well as the same serious assault on police charge on which his second cousin, Mervyn Tomlinson, of Bundaberg was also found guilty.
None of "The Gympie Three," as some are calling them, was found guilty of any of the assault or assault with bodily harm charges naming Gympie Region mayor Mick Curran as victim.
That result prompted Brisbane solicitor Colin Hardy to announce he would be advising his three clients on whether they should pursue a civil prosecution or other action for assault agaisnt Cr Curran and Gympie Regional Council, following the mayor's admission in evidence that he had struck Wit-boooka in the face, breaking his nose.
Judge Bernard Porter thanked jurors for their diligence during nearly two weeks of evidence and more than a full working day of deliberations.
Before delivering their verdicts, jurors told Judge Porter they would be able to present unanimous verdicts on all but one of the charges against the three accused.
That exception was the charge of which Mervyn Tomlinson was convicted.
Jurors said they had formed the view that they would not be able to deliver a unanimous verdict, even with extra time.
Judge Porter said he would allow a majority verdict if 11 out of the 12 supported it.
The judge adjourned sentencing until Thursday in the Brisbane District court, but said he would ask for special arrangements to be made to have the sentence proceedings screened live on courthouse video at the Gympie District Court, at noon on Thursday.
Speaking outside the court late Saturday afternoon, Mr Hardy urged the council to reach agreement with the Kabi Kabi people relating to the protection of cultural heritage and the way those issues are dealt with.
"Gympie is a lovely town and it's deserving of a leader, a mayor, who deals with issues with dignity, not violence," he said.
"We hope that Aboriginal people can reach agreement with the council on ways in which cultural issues can be discussed in a frank, open and cordial way.
"There are a number of such agreements already in place with other local governments on these issues."
He said Aboriginal people often despaired when no-one seemed to be listening to them.
"I will be advising my clients as to whether they can consider action agaisnt the council and the mayor for unlawful assault of Wit-boooka, causing the breaking of his nose by a strike from the mayor," Mr Hardy said.
Update: Saturday, June 1, 8.45am
A GYMPIE District Court jury has reconvened after retiring yesterday to consider their verdict on remaining charges against three Gympie land rights activists.
Two of them have been acquitted of taking part in an alleged unlawful forced entry to Gympie Regional Council's Mary St offices three years ago.
That followed a direction on matters of law from judge Bernard Porter that there was insufficient evidence to lawfully convict the other two activists, Diane Redden-King, of Curra and Mervyn Tomlinson, of Bundaberg, on that charge.
Wit-boooka (charged as Gary Tomlinson, of Southside) is still awaiting a jury decision on the facts of that matter.
The Gympie Times will be monitoring the action today as a verdict is also awaited on other charges against all three, including assault, assault with bodily harm and serious assault of a police officer in the execution of his duty, all on May 31, 2016.
Saturday, June 1
Long, complex and significant - three years on, we approach the end of one of Gympie's longest running, most unusual and potentially significant criminal trials.
THE jury is out on remaining charges against three Gympie land rights activists, after the dismissal of unlawful entry charges against two of them.
The trial follows five long minutes of violence and uproar at Gympie Regional Council's Mary St offices three years ago.
Called by some "the case that has everything," the trial has been rocked and nearly derailed by lengthy delays, jury tampering and a declared conflict of interest by one ex-juror.
High-profile witnesses included Mayor Mick Curran, who admitted striking protester Wit-boooka (Gary Tomlinson), breaking his nose.
Council CEO Bernard Smith and other senior council executives and staff members have given detailed evidence of their often differing recollections of an intense but brief time when everything seemed to happen at once.
Jurors are now considering their verdicts on the remaining charges against the three accused, after Judge Bernard Porter directed jurors to return not guilty verdicts in two cases.
Wit-boooka, of Southside still faces a charge of forcible entry to cause reasonable alarm to Cr Curran.
But Judge Porter yesterday directed the jury to acquit Diane Redden-King of Curra and Mervyn Tomlinson of Bundaberg of that charge.
He ruled the acquittal was a matter of law and that there was insufficient evidence to convict either Ms Redden-King or Mervyn Tomlinson.
That leaves Wit-boooka still awaiting the jury verdict on the facts of that matter.
All other charges remain in place.
"The Gympie Three," as some have labelled them, 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 remained until being sent home at 5pm, with an early start on continued deliberations this morning.
Judge Porter described the case, which has taken up almost all the court's current Gympie sittings, as "a little more complex than most".
He took more than two hours to sum up the essence of the evidence and the final submissions of four leading land rights barristers involved in the case - Crown prosecutor Ryder Reid, Tony McAvoy QC (for Wit-boooka), Andrew Preston (for Mervyn Tomlinson) and David Yarrow (for Ms Redden-King).
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.
Ms Redden-King and Mervyn Tomlinson were 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 the case was about trespassing, not land rights.
He said Cr Curran threw a "pre-emptive punch," which Cr Curran testified was an open handed strike.
The mayor 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, Mr Yarrow, told the court her actions in video recording the fracas that followed could not be considered support for Wit-boooka's actions and resulted in additional evidence that had informed the court during the trial.
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 told the court he was trying to intervene in ways which would "de-escalate" the violent situation that had quickly developed.
Judge Porter has told the jury of one instance of "improper interference" with an earlier 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.