Lawyer says cemetery vandalism claims a ‘ beat up’
Lawyer Jann Taylor, who successfully represented two of four people accused of vandalising graves at Toowong Cemetery last year, said calls for changes to be made to state laws was nothing but a ‘beat up’.
Her comments come after an E-petition was submitted to parliament claiming a legal loophole allowed the dismissal of charges be dropped against the group.
The Department of Public Prosecutions also launched a review of the case following the Magistrates decision.
But Ms Taylor said suggestions there are loopholes in the current laws were ridiculous and claimed poor investigations were to blame.
“It’s not a loophole,” she said.
“There was no evidence on an essential element of the case. They had nobody to say it was not authorised,” she said.
Zoe Louise Wilson 24, Benjamin Lionel Garland, 19, Shane Alan Bell and Michael John Smallbon, both, 27, were charged with the wilful damage of 82 tombstones at Toowong Cemetery in August last year.
Earlier this month magistrate Graham Lee dismissed the charges on the grounds it could not be proven the group did not have permission from the property owners to inflict damage.
Ms Taylor said the onus needs to be put back onto the cemetery to ensure adequate agreements are in place with the sale of plots and proof of plot ownership.
“It reverts back to the cemetery to get it right,” she said.
But Friends of Toowong Cemetery Association president Hilda Maclean who lodged the E-petition said the laws needed to be changed so that all willful damage in cemeteries was considered unauthorised.
“It’s a move for common sense,” she said. “Chasing the descendants is impossible.”
Attorney-General Cameron Dick said he welcomed Director of Public Prosecutions Tony Moynihan’s decision to review the case and said Queenslanders “are rightly outraged” by the vandalism and desecration of graves.
“It is offensive and despicable behaviour,” he said.
“I am also seeking advice from my department on what changes, if any, need to be made to Queensland law in response to this case, including increasing penalties, to better protect cemeteries.”
Shadow Attorney -General Lawrence Springborg said current laws were not clearly defined and anomalies in the legislation were obvious.
“It’s just a farcical legal argument,” he said.
“I think there is a legal loophole. It was a repugnant act of vandalism.”
Mr Springborg called on Mr Dick to seriously consider amending current laws.
“It’s got to be more than a review. A review with this government basically means to get the public off their backs,” he said.
“I hope the Attorney-General brings his own Bill forward,” he said.
Ms Maclean said she would welcome an amendment to current laws providing organisations were consulted in the process.
“We would like to be involved in the discussion,” she said. “We don’t want new laws to alienate people or upset anyone.”
The E-Petition is available on the Queensland Parliament website and will be tabled in June.