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Verdict in cull whistleblower case

Verdict against Chris Klootwijk raises more questions than it answers regarding legality of ACT crackdown on cull protesters. Seen here, Klootwijk points to shooter vehicle damage to the sensitive ACT grasslands.

Appeal on horizon

Chris Klootwijk, who was convicted on one of two counts of hindering two public officials (a ranger and a shooter) in April, has decided to appeal, encouraged by his formidable barrister Jack Pappas who will undertake the appeal.

The alleged hindrance occurred when kangaroo killing operations were halted for 30 to 45 minutes because Klootwijk blew a whistle outside an area where kangaroos were being shot.

The Magistrate accepted the Prosecution’s submission that the contracted private commercial company the shooter worked for was temporarily a ‘government official’.

She then found Klootwijk not guilty of hindering this ‘government official’ because the licence the Conservator of Flora and Fauna had issued to allow him to shoot kangaroos was invalid. It referred to the wrong clause of the Nature Conservation Act 1980, and there were no transitional arrangements to allow it to apply to the right clause of the new Nature Conservation Act 2014.

Next, in an even stranger decision, the Magistrate decided that Klootwijk had, however, hindered the ranger because he was a conservation officer. She said, that under the new Nature Conservation Act, a conservation officer does not need a licence to kill native animals.

She neglected to mention that a conservation officer may kill a native animal only if he is exercising his functions under the Act. The only functions under the Act that allow a conservation officer to kill a native animal (without some additional exemption such as a licence), are if the animal is sick, injured or a threat to human safety.

Equally baffling was the Magistrate’s decision that any hinder had occurred at all. The evidence showed clearly that the only time Klootwijk’s whistle caused the shooters and rangers to stop shooting was when Klootwijk was trying to draw their attention to the screeching of a wounded kangaroo.

Once anyone raises a suspicion that a shot kangaroo had not been killed outright, the only duty of the rangers and shooters is to stop shooting and check out the report. The national Code of Practice for the Humane Killing of Kangaroos, for all its minimalist protections and other faults, at least makes this duty crystal clear.

Klootwijk’s barrister Jack Pappas said the grounds for an appeal is to ask for an objective review of the evidence already presented; no new evidence would be required.

No review of illegal shooting on public land and danger to the public

Unfortunately, one matter never raised during the court case was the shooting that had taken place on the Rose Cottage Horse Paddocks a week before Klootwijk was arrested. This shooting was not permitted under any licence, not even an invalid one. It was conducted on open, public recreational land without any warning to the public, and could easily have resulted in human deaths.

The government had been bombarded with complaints about this dangerous and irresponsible activity, but has not responded to any of these complaints.

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