Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer
Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer

Man says abuse of council worker was 'political speech'

A GLADSTONE man who claimed his abuse of a council worker was "political speech" after receiving three infringement notices about his dog was found guilty at the end of a confusing half-day trial.

Caine Mark Conlan, 48, was found guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court on Tuesday of one count of threaten or use abusive language to an authorised person.

Conlan took the charge to trial and cross-examined Gladstone Regional Council workers over the matter.

He argued that his abuse of a council worker - who hand-delivered several infringement notices to Conlan's letterbox - was within his rights given his belief of the council worker's "misconduct".

In the lead-up to the offence on November 6, 2018, the court was told Conlan had been in communications with the council worker over complaints about his dog.

The court was told neighbours had complained about the dog escaping the yard and "charging at a child". The dog was unregistered.

The council worker visited Conlan's house on October 29 and October 31 to hand-deliver infringement notices under local law enforcement: one for the "dog attack", one for the unregistered dog and another for the "dog roaming".

The court was told there was an email exchange between Conlan and the council worker.

Conlan told the court he sent the council worker a video, which he said proved his dog did not attack anyone.

While giving evidence in court the council worker said the video did not prove Conlan's claims.

He said Conlan also called him a "smart piece of s---" in the email thread.

It was because of this abuse the council worker, in the company of a colleague, attended Conlan's address on November 6 to hand-deliver another infringement.

Body-worn camera footage of the council worker shows him placing the letter in the mailbox and walking back to the car when Conlan approaches the front gate.

The council worker can be heard asking Conlan "how are you" before informing him of the infringement notice for the email abuse.

The conversation is muffled but Conlan can be heard calling the council worker a "dickhead" and a "fat piece of s---".

Conlan said: "Go f--- yourself. I'll see you in court."

The council worker told Conlan he had been "cautioned".

"You're going to get it," the council worker was heard to say before he and his colleague got back in the car.

In court Conlan argued the council worker had harassed him by attending his property on several occasions to hand-deliver infringements.

Conlan questioned whether it was common practice for council workers to hand-deliver infringements and two council workers gave evidence that it was.

Conlan said the council worker's decision to hand-deliver the infringement was "contentious" and there was "no need for it".

"Regarding my language - I consider it political speech. They were clearly picking on me," Conlan said.

Magistrate Philippa Beckinsale asked how insulting the council worker was "political language".

Conlan responded: "If a government official is clearly showing misconduct in his position then yes a citizen has a right to clearly tell that person what they think of them".

Ms Beckinsale said it was clear Conlan was guilty of the abuse given he had admitted it and was seen and heard on video.

She said there was clear evidence the council workers had acted within local law guidelines and said there was no evidence of misconduct.

Conlan was fined the ticketable amount of $261 and ordered to pay $99.55 in court costs. Conlan said he was "disgusted" by the verdict and walked out of the courtroom.

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