Glen Eira Council cops costs in adjourned case against former councillor

  • Andrea Kellett
  • November 06, 2013 4:25PM
Former Glen Eira councillor Frank Penhalluriack outside the Melbourne Magistrate's Court today. Picture: Janine Eastgate.

Former Glen Eira councillor Frank Penhalluriack outside the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court today. Picture: Janine Eastgate. Source: News Limited

GLEN Eira ratepayers have copped an $11,800 legal bill after a crucial omission by council lawyers on day one of a criminal court case against former councillor Frank Penhalluriack.

Magistrate Denise O’Reilly has ordered the council pay defence teams’ costs for today’s wasted appearance.

But total costs to Glen Eira ratepayers for today’s gaffe will be far more than $11,800 once the bill of the council’s legal team, including a barrister and instructing solicitor, is taken into account.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court also adjourned the case until March, to allow council lawyers to prepare and give “proper” notice of crucial witness evidence.

Mr Penhalluriack, his company K.I. Penhalluriack Nominees Pty Ltd and former tenant Tomer Rabba have been charged with breaching the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

The council alleges they operated an illegal rooming house from a rental property on Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield, between May and June last year.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Magistrate O’Reilly told council lawyers she wanted “proper” notice of their intention to present hearsay witness evidence.

“There wasn’t proper notice given,” she said.

“I think it’s the right thing that they give proper notice.”

The evidence relates to a conversation a Glen Eira Council building inspector is alleged to have had with a man at the property last year.

The court heard council’s legal team could not find that man, known only as ‘Brent’, and they wanted “hearsay” evidence of what he is alleged to have said, allowed in court.

David Grace, for Mr Penhalluriack, objected and urged Ms O’Reilly to let the hearing continue without that evidence.

The discussion relates to how many people were staying at the property and could be relied on in the prosecution’s case that the house was being used as a rooming house.

It has since been demolished and replaced with a car park.

Ms O’Reilly adjourned the case to March 3 for three days.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Penhalluriack said he was “disappointed” about the delay.

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/central/glen-eira-council-cops-costs-in-adjourned-case-against-former-councillor/story-fngnvlpt-1226754412798

COMMENT

What the Leader article does not make clear is that Council had 3 lawyers (including a barrister), their own corporate counsel, the ‘policing officer’ (Katz) and 3 other officers sitting in court all day. Another 3 officers were waiting in the wings to be called as witnesses in the days ahead. That should, we estimate, come close to at least another $15,000 that’s gone down the drain for nothing and is just the beginning. The case is scheduled for 3 days. If Penhalluriack wins then the cost to ratepayers could be huge.

After 3 mentions, and continual delays, Council’s lawyers still seem incapable of getting their act together. Shades of the original VCAT hearing where council was ordered to go away and write up its case properly. Instead of providing clear ‘briefs of evidence’, as required by law, ‘hearsay’ introduced at the last moment became the bone of contention. The magistrate ordered that Council undertake proper process by giving ‘notice’. In other words, basically telling council, and their expensive lawyers, that they’ve stuffed up! Also worthy of mention is that the charge against Mrs Penhalluriack was withdrawn right at the start. Make of this what you will!

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