Live baiters go to the High Court of Australia
Tuesday 15th October
It’s been nearly 5 years since the Four Corners expose, and Zeke Kadir and Donna Grech have still not been held accountable for their vile acts of animal cruelty. Zeke Kadir ran a breaking-in facility at Wilshire Park, west of Sydney, and Donna Grech worked for him. They were both caught on camera using live rabbits and a possum to train greyhounds. Kadir admitted to the undercover Animals Australia investigator that he had 30 ‘fresh’ live rabbits delivered each week. This occurred in 2014, even though the practice of using living animals to train greyhounds was banned in NSW in 1967.
Kadir and Grech were charged with serious animal cruelty under s530 of the Criminal Act. If found guilty, this crime would attract a maximum penalty of 5 years in imprisonment. Kadir and Grech both pleaded not-guilty, but before their trial commenced, they proceeded to challenge the admissibility of the evidence that was used to charge them and which will be used in court, namely the footage which was obtained by setting up a camera without the property owner’s knowledge or permission.
The case went to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, and then the Crown (the prosecutors) obtained leave (permission) to challenge the decision in the High Court. Just to be clear, the criminal trial for serious animal cruelty hasn’t gone to the High Court (that hasn’t even begun). It’s just about what evidence can be used and whether errors were made in the District Court and Court of Appeal is dismissing certain evidence.
In NSW there is a Surveillance Devices Act which prohibits the use of listening and cameras without consent. And under the NSW Evidence Act is says improper or illegally obtained evidence should be excluded from court. This means if evidence is deemed illegal or improper, then that evidence cannot be presented in court and cannot be used to try and get a conviction. Without the video footage of Kadir and Grech using live animals, the chance of getting a guilty conviction is considerably less.
Importantly, the law also says that the evidence shouldn’t be admitted “unless the desirability of admitting the evidence outweighs the undesirability of admitting evidence.” So there is a chance it could be used, but the High Court will have to decide. We think it’s incredibly desirable that the evidence be admitted- obviously!
Notably, one of the big issues here, is not just a live baiting issue/ greyhound racing issue, but an issue relevant to many acts of cruelty towards animals in many industries: How does one obtain evidence which would lead towards a conviction? The RSPCA would not be able to get a warrant for an inspection purely based on a tip-off that cruelty occurs at a particular place. Even if they do an inspection, that doesn’t mean they will find evidence. They also do not have the powers to pursue covert surveillance, only the police have this power. And it’s unlikely the police would install cameras to catch animal cruelty like live baiting. Not only would they need stronger evidence to get permission to install cameras, there needs to be the interest, willpower and resources within the police force to pursue animal cruelty cases. We are not convinced that such interest currently exists. So there is a very strong argument, that unless Animals Australia (or any other animal protection group) set up surveillance cameras, these acts of animal cruelty would never have caught and very likely the continuing of illegal live baiting, at this location, would never have been exposed.
So what the full bench of the High Court decides regarding this evidence will very interesting. It could have significant ramifications for other cruelty cases in the future. How long they will take to make their decision is unknown but stay tuned!
Meanwhile the trial for Kadir and Grech has been scheduled for March 2020 and hopefully some of the footage will be admissible, otherwise it might be a difficult trial to win.
High Court Documents related to both Kedir and Grech cases.
Chronology of events might interest some people.
Four Corners ‘Making a Killing’
s530 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)
s7 Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW)
s138 Evidence Act 1995 (NSW)