|Child Denounces Parents To State||2005 October|
|Gold Coast Council Uses Informers||2003 January|
GOLD Coast City Council has been accused of violating civil liberties after accusing a man of breaching dog bylaws.
Retired Parkwood resident Ron Selmes said council officers were acting outside of the law by issuing warning notices to people based on hearsay evidence.
He said a council officer had exercised powers 'beyond what the police had' when he issued him with an official notice that 'in effect' accused him of allowing his dog to roam unattended.
Mr Selmes has adamantly denied allowing his dog to wander and said he could produce witnesses from the neighbourhood to back his case.
He has also requested that the council withdraw the 'advice notice', but said council officers had refused to do so.
"They also refuse to tell us who made the complaint," he said.
Mr Selmes said hearsay evidence could not be used to suggest guilt.
"The council is just trampling on the law," he said.
In a letter to Mr Selmes, Gold Coast city councillor and former police officer, Margaret Grummitt, denied that the 'advice notice' implied guilt.
She said the notices were designed to advise the owner that a complaint had been received and that action was required to satisfy the council's local laws.
"Receiving an advice notice does not mean that the complaint has been found to be valid," she said.
However Mr Selmes said Councillor Grummitt later qualified the letter and agreed that the evidence in his case was definitely hearsay, would not be admissible in a court of law and therefore could not be used by council officers.
Councillor Grummitt was on leave last week and unavailable for further comment.
Under normal police procedure involving minor offences, police can only take action by issuing a summons.
Mr Selmes said if someone made a minor complaint against some one else and police came to your property to investigate, they were obliged to leave if you denied the allegation.
"Before they can arrest you and take you before court they have to have sufficient evidence to prove the complaint beyond reasonable doubt. Any evidence that's an unsworn statement is hearsay. If people want to make an allegation, it has got to be done under oath, otherwise it's not evidence. In this case (the dog complaint), or whatever the alleged offence might be, it hasn't been correctly identified or proven. Also in this case the offending animal had not been properly identified."
Mr Selmes said the fact that the council used an unsworn statement as the basis of a written and numbered warning or directive, made the whole process illegal.
"Hearsay evidence can't be used to issue a warning."
Mr Selmes said the correct procedure for an individual to handle a dog complaint would be for the person to lure the animal into a closed area and then call the city council officer.
"Alternatively they could call a council officer to impound the animal if they did not want to approach it."
Mr Selmes, who has studied commercial law and has a business back ground, said he was 'not a stirrer'. It's the first time I've written to a newspaper, he said.
In his letter to the Sun, Mr Selmes said it appeared that the council accepted a situation where any anonymous person, either maliciously or in error, was free to make any accusation of any nature against any ratepayer at any time without tangible proof or conclusively identifying the subject.
If this is so, such support indicates council obviously has more power than our state police force, he said.
In her letter, Councillor Grummitt said the council was obliged to investigate all complaints received over alleged dog nuisances. "Complaints may be lodged over the telephone, in person or in writing," she said.
However Mr Selmes said the worrying implication was that anyone could, on any pretext, complain to the council either maliciously or in error.