Covid fines doled out by cops were filled with ‘terrible grammar and terrible drafting’ as officers accused of trying to ‘amend’ the charges for protesters
- Cops blasted for ‘mangled’ wording on fines for Black Lives Matter protesters
- Meriki Onus and Crystal McKinnon accused of breaching Covid rules in Victoria
- Judge said fines were riddled with ‘terrible grammar and ‘terrible drafting’
A magistrate has refused an application by police to amend charges against two Black Lives Matter protesters, agreeing with defence that they were ‘mangled’.
Meriki Onus and Crystal McKinnon are accused of breaching the Chief Health Officer’s COVID-19 directions by arranging the protest in June 2020.
Police applied to amend the wording of the charge, laid against them a year after the protest, but their lawyers have successfully argued against it.
Magistrate Andrew McKenna found the way the charge was worded was not the only viable or even reasonable interpretation of it.
‘It is deficient in a number of different ways,’ he said on Thursday.
Crystal McKinnon (pictured left) and Meriki Onus (pictured right) are accused of breaching COVID-19 health directions by organising the Black Lives Matter Protests in June 2020
Patrick Doyle SC had argued the wording of the charge was mangled and inaccurate because it alleged the women breached a direction or requirement by meeting with 20 or more people who they lived with.
He said the charge did not say who made the direction, only referred to Chief Health Officer exemptions.
Mr McKenna agreed the wording of the charge had misconstrued something and was ‘mangled in a frightful way’.
‘Those words … might as well be made by a Martian,’ he said.
He suggested if an accused cherrypicked pieces of the charge they might be able to form a collage to give the charge good sense.
But he questioned if it was proper that an accused person should have to try the options, mix them up and work out something that was sensible.
‘Even intelligent, highly educated accused would be mighty perplexed by it,’ he said.
His experienced eye had to read it ‘over and over’ to try to get the reasonable meaning, and that was not how a recipient of a charge was forced to contend with it, he said
The police applied to amend the ‘mangled’ wording of the charges but were unsuccessful
Francesca Holmes, for the chief commissioner, said it was unfortunate the charge used the words ‘that they reside with’ and acknowledged the charge involved ‘terrible grammar, terrible drafting’.
But she maintained the original charge did properly disclose the nature of the offence they allegedly committed.
The amendment was merely to include the precise direction that was breached, she said.
A later application to also amend the dates – from the date of the protest to a period leading up to the protest – was also rejected.
Mr Doyle said a fresh application to have the charges struck out would be made.
The women have previously fought to have the charge withdrawn, after their lawyers were notified in June this year that the case would be dismissed because charges were ‘fatally flawed’.
Ms Holmes said prosecutors would need to consider if the charges would be withdrawn, but said no decision could be made on Thursday.
The matter will return to court next year.