SHIRE of Mundaring chief executive Jonathan Throssell has come under fire during public question time over his decision to authorise lawyers to proceed with prosecuting two dogs accused of killing 39 sheep in The Lakes in 2016.
A three-day criminal trial in the Perth Magistrates Court between the Shire and Simon Hey ruled on January 30 that lawyers acting on behalf of the Shire were unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Hey’s dogs, Two Sox and Floyd, had committed the offence.
Handing down his decision Magistrate Thomas Hall said he had serious concerns about the investigation conducted by the Shire rangers, labelling their evidence ‘poor’ and ‘unreliable’.
Hazel Wheatley-Hey said Mr Throssell should admit he had made the wrong decision to prosecute and be made accountable to council.
“There was no evidence put forward that an attack did occur,” she said.
“The whole situation has cost us all this money and it is just crazy.
“I want to know did the CEO look at the evidence and was the decision to prosecute based on the advice of lawyers?”
Shire President John Daw said council was not the decision-maker in deciding to prosecute, it was the function of the chief executive.
“Again I am genuinely sorry and apologise for the distress to the Heys,” he said.
“However the decision to prosecute or not is not the council’s duty, it is the function of the CEO to decide.
“It was the opinion of the CEO that there was prima facie evidence to prosecute.
“Council have no authority to intervene.”
Mr Throssell said the Shire had a responsibility to administer and enforce provisions of the Dog Act 1976.
“This includes carrying out prosecutions where there is prima facie evidence to support a charge and where the seriousness of the offence warrants this approach,” he said.
“It is up to a Magistrate to assess the evidence presented and to make a judgement.
“In this case, the Magistrate ruled in favour of Mr Hey.
“The Magistrate also noted that this did not automatically mean the same finding as innocence.
“Throughout each of the individual matters which proceeded to court, there was prima facie evidence to support the prosecution.
“I have complete confidence that staff involved in this matter acted lawfully, with integrity and in the best interests of the community at all times.”
However Hovea resident David Mattock said he believed staff had breached the Shire’s code of conduct.
“When I asked a question in February Mr Throssell said there has not and will not be any action taken against staff as there is no breach of code of conduct,” he said.
“Clearly, the CEO has a one sided view on this matter.
“Mr Throssell only needs to read the transcripts of the first and the second trial to know that there is no question that the actions of some employees have damaged the reputation of the Shire, which is a breach of the Code in itself.
“We need council to authorise someone impartial to investigate this matter.”
Mt Helena resident Julie Oldfield also supported calls for an investigation to be carried out into the chief executive’s decision to prosecute the Heys.
“I attended all of the court cases and the magistrate said the rangers’ evidence gathering was at best poor and at worst incompetent,” she said.
“I find it staggering council has no concerns about the conduct of the CEO.
“Does our CEO have carte blanche to spend $100,000 of our ratepayers money pursing such a case?”
Mr Throssell said an independent investigation was conducted and found there was no breach of the code of conduct.
“The Magistrate said while he couldn’t rely upon the rangers’ evidence they acted with integrity,” he said.
“We have to investigate dog attacks without fear or favour.
“The costs that arise out of that nobody likes to pay but that is the cost of keeping community safe and free from dog attacks.”