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History of Prisoner Movement

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O'Malley update - An urgent plea against forced injections

Kerry O'Malley has been a victim of unjust Community Treatment Orders (CTO) for 47 years. Currently Kerry faces the violation of monthly forced injections, which cause the debilitating side effects of anxiety and depression. Justice Action has been an advocate for Kerry since 2015 and this month her case is finally brought before the Supreme Court.

Kerry has no criminal record. She is a non-violent, loving mother of five children and she deserves to have autonomy over her body. Her case shows a serious denial of human rights, with no evidence of any 'risk of serious harm' to justify a CTO.

With Kerry's next injection scheduled Monday, we are pleading the NSW Health Authority to guarantee that no forced medication be administered until the matter is resolved in Court.

Her "medication" causes severe physical and mental side effects. This case is not only important for Kerry O’Malley but all mental health patients experiencing forced medication under Community Treatment Order.

This past Monday Justice Action attended a hearing in the Supreme Court. It was an online hearing due to COVID-19, although we had not been informed of the change prior to arriving at court. The hearing was conducted via a dial-up call without video connection, unlike the defendants who were able to present via video. This was apparently due to a Court mix-up. Procedural fairness is an essential requirement to the administration of justice, and in this case, procedural fairness was completely denied.

The Registrar did not think the case was ready to proceed to trial. Instead, she requested more information from both parties. Justice Action are still waiting for the NSW Health Authority to provide us with Ms. O’Malley’s complete medical record. Accessing these documents is essential for appealing the Community Treatment Order which currently authorises the Health Authority to forcibly inject the medication.

Our next online hearing is scheduled for next Monday the 13th of July 2020 where Justice Action and its legal counsel will continue to advocate for Ms. O’Malley and against the forcible administration of medication for all mentally ill persons in NSW.

COVID-19: Prisoner’s plea for release

The Supreme Court has banned images of dead foetuses - Australian ...

Currently incarcerated in a privately-run Victorian prison, Mark Rowson represents many vulnerable prisoners across Australia whose requests to the Government for release due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been unsuccessful. 

 

In his request to the court for an injunction for release, Rowson provided evidence regarding serious breaches of prisoner duty of care and abuses of human rights. Failure to ensure social distancing is possible, provide adequate personal hygiene and sanitation products, wear protective gear and the contamination of laundry items with bodily fluids are among many breaches of care Rowson experiences in prison. 

 

Like many prisoners held in correctional centres, Rowson possesses various health conditions that make him susceptible to contracting coronavirus. He and many other vulnerable prisoners are being held in the ‘infection thriving’, unsanitary and overcrowded environments of prisons. As recent outbreaks overseas have shown, prisons are ‘epicentres’ for the virus, devoid of space and operating over capacity.  

Despite Rowson’s injunction for release to the Supreme Court of Victoria being denied, the court ordered Corrections Victoria to undertake a formal risk assessment of Port Phillip Prison according to the CDNA National Guidelines. This is a step in the right direction as prison standards must be increased, but low-risk and vulnerable inmates like Rowson are still threatened by COVID-19. Although the virus has not yet reached prisons, it is not a matter of if, but when that will happen. The urgent need for low-risk and vulnerable prisoners to be released grows as the obligation of governments to their duty of care of those they hold in custody. 

 

Read more here: Prisoner's COVID-19 Court Challenge

COVID-19 Index Page: Coronavirus must not enter prisons

WJN Takeover Report 7th day trial 21 February

Report hearing of seventh day of trial Friday February 21, 2020

The Women’s Justice Network case against Kat Armstrong recommenced today at 9:30am presided over by Her Honour, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman. The defence team is Peter O’Brien and Elliot Rowe.

 

The whole day was spent with the Police Prosecutor, Ms Rochester, cross examining Kat about the set up and ongoing operations and finances of the Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN), now known as Women’s Justice Network (WJN).

 

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                                                 Photo of WJN CEO Gloria Larman - attended every day of trial

 

Evidence was given about an award received by Ms Armstrong from the Vodafone Foundation. Kat applied in 2013 to the Vodafone Foundation for the World of Difference grant, consisting of $85,000. Kat was successful and it was paid directly to the Women’s Justice Network. Magistrate Huntsman stated that this questioning was ‘not relevant to the legal claim of right’ and was therefore inadmissible.

 

 

Loan discrepancies

Ms Armstrong did not record loan liabilities on the WIPAN accounts. Due to the informal procedures adopted at the inception of WIPAN between 2007 and 2011, there was no official documentation in relation to the loan funding of the organisation. As shown by Mr O’Brien, Ms Armstrong applied and received two personal loans comprising of fifty-five and thirty-three thousand dollars respectively in 2010 from a bank and invested the majority of these funds to ensure the continued operations of the Women’s Justice Network.

 

This was in addition to the three hundred and twenty thousand dollar loan received from Breakout Media Communication from 2008 to 2011. In response to these facts, Ms Armstrong insisted that due to the infancy of the WIPAN, the loans were never officially recorded, due to the informal relationship. It was of Ms Armstrong’s opinion that it was a “family relationship” between WIPAN and JA/BO and the contributions by Breakout was common knowledge among the board members at the time, consistently repeating, ‘that’s just the way it was back then’.

 

Of particular note, this was during a time where Ms Armstrong was continually lobbying to government organisations in order to receive public funding. She admitted that whilst this may have not have been the best way of keeping records but that it was a small, unfunded, ngo, not based on corporate contracts. Her belief was that she would not be successful in securing funding from government and it didn’t need too much formality.

 

In relation to the loans made by Breakout, her firm understanding was that the sum would be paid back ‘if and when’ the organisation ever could or would get secured funding. This approach from the prosecution was that the money received from Breakout was a gift for the development of WIPAN, and therefore not categorised as a loan liability.

 

Significantly, it was noted by the prosecution that a one-hundred thousand-dollar grant was received from the Office of Women in 2009. When asked why this sum was not used to pay back the Breakout loan, Ms Armstrong insisted that this grant was applied for and had to be spent for a particular mentoring project and could not be used to pay back the loan to Breakout.

 

Nevertheless, the sums of money paid by Breakout to WIPAN and paid from Kat personally to WIPAN, were never recorded in written contracts because of the informal environment of their inception and the commitment Kat had to ensuring WIPAN’s continued operations and success.

 

 

Position as Unpaid CEO
A major topic of discussion was the array of unpaid roles Ms Armstrong undertook in the first seven years of WIPAN.

 

The prosecutor attempted to argue that Ms Armstrong’s agreement with the board in relation to the payment was not retrospective. However, it was clear that Kat always maintained the expectation to be paid back for all work, if and when WIPAN secured recurrent funds. She had consistently prioritised the continuance of WIPAN regardless of the personal financial strain to herself.

 

Ms Armstrong worked full time, up to 70 hours a week and was unpaid between 2011-2017 while other board members had external income from their full-time employment. The multiple roles Kat took during this time included full-time CEO, the admin/accounts coordinator, the treasurer, the secretary, mentoring coordinator and a mentor.

 

Although she recorded no formal documentation about her workloads, the board members, other staff and networks saw the immense volume of work she completed during her 10 year period of running WIPAN.

 

After lunch the prosecutor continued her cross-examination of Kat Armstrong. The prosecutor asked why she initially intended to donate a $10k car in 2017 to WJN but did not follow through with this. Kat explained that given her trust of the board had significantly reduced by this time, and that she had already put so much of her personal finances and time into the organisation she believed that it was long overdue for WJN to repay her.

 

The prosecutor accused Kat of making up her legal right of claim after being reported by the current WJN Board to the NSW Police in December 2018. Kat denied that and said that she had submitted a letter of legal demand for monies that were owed to Kat from WIPAN in September 2018. Also Kat’s mentor had made representations in emails to the current WIPAN board in April 2018, about monies owed to Kat and to Breakout.

 

The Prosecutor submitted and questioned Kat on an email thread between Kat and other board members in March 2017 where Kat stated that she refused payment for the next few weeks of work. Magistrate looked over the thread and said that she felt that Kat was doing the work voluntarily. However Peter O’Brien raised the final part of the email where the current Vice President, Nicki Petrou, agreed that after informal discussions had been with Kat and other board members, Kat was then open to the proposals put by the board.

 

The prosecutor stated that the text message between Miss Brennan and Armstrong in December 2017, the language Kat used was very aggressive and profane. She had accused Brennan of being a “putrid dog” with implications that she was gutless for not coming to Kat first when she had made a returned transaction, a donation of $30K made to Kat’s work by her former partner.

 

The prosecutor stated that this language was harassment. Kat stated that this language was normal between the two and regular language used between women who had lived experience of prison similar to the women clientele of WIPAN.

 

The Magistrate adjourned the proceedings to Friday 1 May 2020, confirming that there were three more witnesses to give evidence for the defence case.

 

Peter O’Brien said he would provide written submissions for the defence. what the evidence meant and that the magistrate’s decision was to be made on that last day.

 

Return to Index Page of Issue 

 

 

Checklist of essential resources for access to law

Justification of the contents of the checklist

To adequately represent oneself in court, the individual must have the sufficient degree of comfort to face the intimidating atmosphere of the courtroom; have been given the time and resources to research and familiarise themselves with the case. Moreover, the litigant must maintain the sense of comfort and self-respect to then speak confidently to the magistrate and the jury.The achievement of the sense of comfort might demand the possession of some personal belongings by the litigant; these items might be of religious or symbolic nature. 

Self-representation from a cell checklist:

  •   Access to pen – to write notes, plot drafts, write letters
  • Access to paper – to record drafts, thoughts and letters
  •   Access to a computer – to research, to gain access to databases, legal websites, records, write digitally.
  •   Access to light – to write, read
  •   Internet access – to have a broader, up to date ability to gain relevant information about law case, court proceedings, records.
  • Access to court transcripts – to maintain the sense of clarity of the case; to be aware of any directions of appeal and self-defence that could be used by the litigant in the court.
  •   Copy of the latest version of legislation – to be aware of one’s own rights in court and the country of imprisonment. 
  •   Prisoner’s own legal transcript – to prepare appropriate defence based on previous proceedings in court.
  •   Access to uniform civil procedure rules – to become familiar with the rules of civil court.
  •   Access to court-specific practices and procedures – to familiarise with the way that specific courts run their procedures.
  •   Access to NSW Case law – to find the record of Judgements and Decisions made in court regarding similar cases to that of the litigant.
  •   Access to a Translator* - to conduct their message accurately
  •   Access to a Solicitor – to receive appropriate advice
  •   Personal belongings to sustain comfort: religious, sentimental and symbolic items like pictures of their family.

Factors motivating this Checklist:

This Checklist should be a compilation of checklists developed in the light of Australian laws as well as laws established overseas; specifically, we want to be looking into US and UK developments.

Moreover, the scope of this checklist may encompass your subjecting insight into the matter, specifically what YOU would need to have when placed in a cell and in the position of representing yourself in the court. Consider how you are feeling and what you are thinking of employing to convince the court of innocence when put under such circumstance. 

Lastly, this document should be formatted as a letter; my personal understanding is that justification and reasons for these items should be provided; this document should convince the person receiving to enforce the appropriate measures for the prisoner to receive their items.

Following are the pathways which may serve as a guide:

Argument 1 equality of representation: the prisoner should have similar conditions that the lawyer would representing them

Argument 2, equality of opportunity: the prisoner should be compensated in their disadvantage in the face of court; for example: a person who has trouble speaking English should be provided with a translator not only in the court but in the cell too.

Argument 3: the prisoner should have the self-care available to reinforce the psychological resilience when facing the court

Report hearing sixth day February 20th

Report hearing of sixth day of trial February 20, 2020

Kat Armstrong’s case was recommenced today at 9:30am and presided over by Her Honour, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman. The defence team is Peter O’Brien and Elliot Rowe.

Coming from Brisbane in support of Kat was Debbie Kilroy OAM of Sisters Inside and others from around the state filled the courtroom.

 

Court200220

The day began with Kat Armstrong taking the stand. She described her turbulent childhood. This included domestic abuse, her parents’ divorce and a heroin addiction by the age of seventeen. As a result of turning to crime to fund her addiction, Kat spent an accumulation of 10 years in prison. In the last sentence she sought drug and alcohol counselling and overcame her addiction. She commenced legal studies in prison with the Southern Cross University and then became the second female ex-prisoner to become a lawyer.  

Over the next few hours, Mr O’Brien shed light on some central issues surrounding Kat’s role at WIPAN:

The establishment of WIPAN
Whilst Kat was Accounts Manager at Breakout in 2007, she sought the support and financial assistance of Breakout to help set up WIPAN. This included setting up the organisation, finding office space and paying Kat’s wages. Kat was at pains to stress that the agreement reached between her and the owner of Breakout was informal and communicated the agreement to the board members of WIPAN multiple times in informal settings. In particular board members Suzette Glasby, Nicky Petrou and Marissa Sandler were made aware of the agreement to repay Breakout from 2008 onwards when the WIPAN funds became available.


 

When asked why the subpoenaed minutes showed no record of these conversations or the debts owed to Breakout, Kat explained the informal nature of WIPAN’s relationship with Breakout. She also alluded to the fact that whilst WIPAN was seeking funding, it would not have been attractive for the WIPAN accounts to reflect debts.

Kat noted that the Board members must have been aware of the funding from Breakout and the hopes to repay the money, due to the very fact that there was office space to begin with.

 

Kat’s paid and unpaid roles within WIPAN

Kat was the driving force of WIPAN. From its inception in 2007, she worked in an often-unpaid capacity in a variety of roles, ranging from Director, CEO, mentoring coordinator, treasurer, book keeping and administrative roles. The unpaid nature of these duties arose from the lack of money available to WIPAN. For example, from mid 2008 to October 2011, whilst Kat worked as CEO, Breakout was in fact the organisation that paid these wages, which amounted to an estimated $50-70k per annum. Kat repeatedly stated that her priority was the continuation of WIPAN, and thus would work unpaid until WIPAN was secure and had recurrent funding. It was Kat’s expectation that she would be paid for her work with some reimbursement once financially viable.

In 2013, Kat received a Vodafone grant worth $85,000, with Kat receiving $55,000 for her CEO salary that year, whilst the remainder was absorbed into the organisation.

From mid 2015, the organisation began talks to secure its first recurrent funding, which would become available mid 2017. It was around this period that Kat made some ‘minimal and modest’ claims for financial reimbursement of some of the work she had done over the years at WIPAN. When asked why she only claimed partial payment, she reiterated her desire to see WIPAN flourish, and her belief that seeking full reimbursement would be excessive and financially crippling. For example, Mr O’Brien showcased a thread of emails from 2015, where Kat asked to end the receipt of payments for her salary from the Department of Justice grant.

After recess, Kat was then questioned about when issues between her and the Board members became evident.

Conflict with WIPAN board members
Conflict between Kat and the board arose mostly due to the fact that Kat began feeling as though her original visions of WIPAN as an organisation driven ‘by women for women’ including those with the experience of being incarcerated was being eroded. This was due to the fact that Kat was the only woman with a lived experience of being incarcerated on the Board in 2017 despite the fact that the organisation’s constitution required that 50% of the Board be ex-prisoners but had instead become saturated by privileged white middle-class professional women.

 

The prevailing problems within WIPAN and its staffing meant that Kat sought to avoid confrontation with the board and in turn created an environment of distrust between Kat and the board members. Mr O’Brien then raised the question of why Kat did not seek out reimbursement from the board members in 2016 once the organisation had secured recurrent funding. Kat responded that she “expected a battle” or confrontation between herself and the board members and thus resorted to taking the matter into her own hands by making online transactions from the WIPAN account to her personal bank account.


 

Online Transactions
Mr O’Brien then brought out transaction records from WIPAN, which showed payments authorised by Kat. Mr Obrien then asked Kat whether it was true that she had falsified the descriptors on transactions.

 

Kat went on to admit that she had made the payments without the authorisation of the rest of the board because she feared the confrontation that would ensue had she pursued a more conventional path.

After lunch Ms Armstrong remained confident and resolute in her justification and reasoning behind the falsified transactions. This justification was grounded in the fact that she felt unable to have an open and honest discussion with the board of WIPAN – in part due to the conflict between lived experience and privileged professional women, and her years of unpaid work. Furthermore, Kat stated that WIPAN owed Breakout a significant debt due to its financial support in its inception.

The Board failed to honour the debt at the time, and continues to do so at this point in time.

Kat agreed that she had refused payment when the Board of Directors offered it as she felt as though the organisation was not financially equipped or stable enough to accommodate this move. It remained Kat’s primary interest to secure the future and stability of WIPAN. But Kat made it clear that she had expected payment for her continued work once WIPAN had sufficient and steady funding.

 

When confronted over the phone with these allegations, Kat initially denied them due to her strong sense of fear and shock. Later she made numerous attempts via email, lawyer’s requests and phone calls to explain her actions and facilitate meaningful discussion. However none of those requests were acknowledged, and instead Kat was vilified to both personal and professional connections and then reported to police.

 

The afternoon session concluded with the beginning of the cross-examination by the prosecution, which will continue into tomorrow.  

Tomorrow the case will end with several witnesses for Kat including former WIPAN Board members giving evidence.

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Prison Commissioner's response to recommendations

We requested for the Commissioner of Corrective Services New South Wales, Peter Severin, to consider paragraph 14.16 and Recommendations 6 and 13 made by Deputy State Coroner Lee in his inquest following the death of David Dungay. These recommendations consist of the availability of Aboriginal Inmate Delegates to assist in interactions between prison officers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates, and the implementation of training consisting of de-escalation techniques.

Despite the Coroner’s findings and recommendations to prevent deaths in custody, the Commissioner has responded dismissively saying “Thank you for your offer to work with CSNSW to implement these recommendations. CSNSW will contact you if that is necessary”. We attach below our exchange dated the 26th of November 2019 with the Commissioner for your reference.


Letter to the Commissioner

Commissioner's response

Meeting the Governor at Yabun

Margaret Beazley

 

Letter to The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Dear Your Excellency,

We are pleased you met with the Dungay Family at Yabun on the 26th of January. We have attached a photograph taken on the day.

As you are aware, the Dungay Family suffered the loss of their son David Dungay in 2015.
Mr Dungay was an Aboriginal man who died on 29th of December 2015 within the Mental Health Unit at Long Bay Prison Hospital. The Coroner’s Report stated that he died as a result of being held face down in the prone position whilst being sedated. This is called death by positional asphyxia.

Please see attached a link to our website with the background to Mr Dungay’s death.
If Mr Dungay were appropriately handled, without the use of force, he would not have suffered from positional asphyxia leading to his death.

Following Dungay’s death we were shocked to find that other deaths in custody had occurred under similar circumstances. We refer you to the Coroners’ Inquests into the deaths of Robert Plasto-Lehner (Northern Territory 2009), Carl Antony Grillo (Queensland 2011), Bradley Karl Coolwell (Queensland 2017) and Pasquale Giorgio (Queensland 2018). All of these cases involved the deceased being restrained in prone position leading to positional asphyxia and ultimately death. If the findings of the Coroners’ Inquests into the death of Robert Plasto-Lehner had been distributed to relevant authorities across Australia the deaths of Carl Antony Grillo, Bradley Karl Coolwell, Pasquale Giorgio and David Dungay could have been prevented.

In addressing this urgent public safety issue we have conducted a careful analysis of the current coronial systems across all Australian jurisdictions and have identified significant gaps in the dissemination of coronial reports. As such many preventable deaths in custody continue to occur. In response to this issue we proposed to the National Coronial Information System and the Australian Institute of Criminology the implementation of a national database of deaths in custody.

This database system would be composed of findings and recommendations to inquests into deaths in custody from all jurisdictions and these documents would be distributed to all relevant authorities and for their responses to be published. This database will address the recurring issues that commonly cause deaths in custody and will foster a collective learning across Australia, in order to prevent these needless losses of life.

Would you support the implementation of this proposal?

Additionally we requested for the Commissioner of Corrective Services New South Wales, Peter Severin, to consider paragraph 14.16 and Recommendations 6 and 13 made by Deputy State Coroner Lee in his inquest following the death of David Dungay. These recommendations consist of the availability of Aboriginal Inmate Delegates to assist in interactions between prison officers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates, and the implementation of training consisting of de-escalation techniques.

Despite the Coroner’s findings and recommendations to prevent deaths in custody, the Commissioner has responded dismissively saying “Thank you for your offer to work with CSNSW to implement these recommendations. CSNSW will contact you if that is necessary”. We attach below our exchange dated the 26th of November 2019 with the Commissioner for your reference.

We would greatly appreciate it if Your Excellency would support the Coroners’ recommendations for de-escalation training and the use of Aboriginal Inmate Delegates within prisons to ensure that Aboriginal inmates are given the chance to be treated with care and dignity within the Australian prison systems.

Would you support that?

Kind regards,
Nivetha Arulalan and the Team at Justice Action

31st of January 2020

 

Report hearing fourth day of trial October 18

Report Fourth Day of the Trial

Friday 18th October 2019 for R v Kathlin Armstrong at the Downing Centre Local Court 4.2. The hearing recommenced at 9:30am and was presided over by Her Honour Magistrate, Carolyn Huntsman. The defence team is Peter O’Brien and Tahn O’Rourke.

Aboriginal woman prisoner activist Vickie Roach addressed Kat’s supporters outside the court. In 2007 she won the constitutionally significant case in the High Court about the prisoners’ right to vote. Ms Roach said that closing WJN would be the only way to achieve justice for women prisoners at this point. It was created and driven by the consumers she said. In her view, without Ms Armstrong, the organisation no longer represented women with lived experience but highlights the opposite. Instead, it now represented white privilege and the way the system ‘steamrolls’ over women who try to make a difference from the inside. This debate takes on an intersectional feminist approach in which the system’s agents mistreat the very women they claim they are trying to protect.

IMG 2773 Vickie Roach speaking to Kat’s supporters outside the Downing Centre

Inside the court, the prosecutor took evidence from the Vice President of WJN, Ms Nicky Petrou. She has been working in the Top End Women’s Legal Centre in Darwin and as the Managing Principal Solicitor of the Darwin Community Legal Centre, but today was her last day in the job.

She said that a working group collating evidence on the case found 49 unusual transactions conducted by Ms Armstrong. Ms Petrou had never been a signatory on the accounts and had not authorised any payments on any expenditure.

Under cross examination, she agreed that Ms Armstrong was integral to the conception and running of WJN. Ms Armstrong was taking on all of the burdens of the company whilst also working to fulfil her goal of having Board members and workers that had actual lived experience of imprisonment. 

Ms Petrou agreed that Ms Armstrong declined receiving both reimbursements and a set salary and gave money she personally received to the organisation. This included $10,000 she had received for the Unsung Hero Award.

While the crux of the accusation is that she had returned money that was lent to set up the organisation, without WJN board authority, the defence pointed out that most of the funds were given by Ms Armstrong herself. Ms Petrou corroborated that Ms Armstrong had paid numerous times out of her own pocket and had consistently declined reimbursement.

The focus was next on Kat’s financial update for donations from Breakout in the second last page of the Board’s minutes on 9th October 2008. Mr O’Brien raised from the witness that Breakout and WJN had similar aims and objectives, and they had a strong working relationship. Mr O’Brien asked the witness about whether the facilities in WJN were donated by Breakout. Ms Petrou said that she was not certain but thought the “computers came from somewhere else”.

Mr O’Brien then referred to the Board’s minutes on 23th March 2009, which suggested that the financial balance in WJN did not have sufficient funds to pay back people working in the organisation. Ms Petrou emphasised that “it is our choice to be a volunteer and not to be paid”. Mr O’Brien raised the argument that the wording in the Board’s minutes saying “Kat said that when we get further funding she would be paid back,” and recording the expense as an out-of-pocket expense would have caused Ms Armstrong to have an expectation that she would be paid back. Ms Petrou said that wasn’t her view.

The cross-examination was not completed due to Ms Petrou’s request for an adjournment to finish some work for her last day, so the prosecution case still wasn’t closed.

The police attempted to make restrictions on bail include no social media reporting on the case, however the prosecutor said that such an approach would be too far reaching on the freedom of speech and that the media exposure so far was the cause of such debate.

The matter was adjourned until 19th February 2020 for an additional three days hearing of the case.

 IMG 2779

Kat Armstrong and her support team

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Return to Political and economic analysis 

                     

Report hearing third day of trial October 17

Report Third Day of the Trial

Thursday 17th October 2019 for R v Kathlin Armstrong at the Local Court of NSW, Downing Centre, Court 4.2.

The hearing recommenced at 9:30am, presided over by Her Honour Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman. The defence team is Peter O’Brien and Tahn O’Rourke.

Kat Armstrong is accused of having returned money that was lent to set up the organisation, without the WJN Board's authority. She asserted the "legal right of claim", creating documents that authorised the return of the loans.

Natasha Thompson, the President of WJN, financial accountant and General Manager of Barnados, was called to the witness stand to discuss the various bank transactions on the WJN accounts.

 

IMG 2769

 

Prior to cross-examination, the witness said she wanted to raise issues with the prosecutor which might affect her ability to provide evidence. She and the prosecutor went out, and on returning the magistrate said that no person should behave in a manner that would hinder the witness’s ability to provide truthful evidence. This suggested that Ms Thompson was made to feel uncomfortable by people on the defence side, however all agreed there was nothing done or said to justify that.

The prosecutor’s examination of Ms Thompson resumed with the presentation of various bank statements that were accepted as evidence by the judge.

The defence lawyer Mr O’Brien commenced his cross-examination about Ms. Thompson’s experience as a board director of WJN. It transpired that she had only been a director of WJN and president of the board since January 2018 and that her involvement prior to this was as a skilled volunteer. The defence team pointed out that she had not been properly elected, to which she did not object. However she said that she felt that Kat was too inexperienced and questioned her adequacy to be President of WJN.

Ms Thompson said that Ms Armstrong had done her induction, and that she had been told that in order for payments to be made, two people would have to approve them through delegation or authorization. The fact that Ms. Armstrong had not sought approval from two parties was one of the reasons Ms. Thompson became suspicious of her activities. The defence pointed out that there had been transactions made by other board members that had not been authorized by two parties, but Ms Thompson had failed to mention those to the police. Ms. Thompson claimed that the reason was because those were not fraudulent unlike Ms Armstrong’s transactions that she believed were.

The defence observed to Ms Thompson that as part of her investigation and reading of the Board and Finance Sub-committee minutes, that she hadn’t seen any items about delegated authority. She was asked if this meant that the protocol intended and the practice actually adopted weren’t the same. She agreed.

Mr O’Brien argued that Ms. Thompson’s view on the authority of transactions made as well as her claims that Ms. Armstrong’s transactions were fraudulent merely a matter of opinion and not backed up by evidence, which is not admissible as stated within section 76 of the Evidence Act (Cth). He continued to argue that Ms. Thompson was not an expert witness since she does not have specialized knowledge in the required area, and therefore cannot make an independent assessment. The magistrate agreed.

Interestingly, Ms. Thompson agreed with the defence that WJN is an organization created for women who have previously been incarcerated, and that as part of this, it would also be run by female ex-prisoners. However she said that for the organization to be sustainable it required skilled people to manage it.

After a break for lunch, the issue of wages arose and a miscommunication was highlighted where Ms. Armstrong had asked to stop receiving wages from the Department of Justice. This was interpreted by WJN as a halt in wages altogether. This was not what Ms. Armstrong had requested thus the defense argued WJN owed Kat money but Ms. Thompson rebutted that by stating that Ms. Armstrong was a volunteer and therefore was working on a non-paid basis. The magistrate said that she would have to consider both points of view and come to a decision whether Kat was owed money.

The final witness of the day called to the stand was Helen Campbell who is the national credit manager of Print Force Australia - Hero Print, who provides print-related services to other trade companies. She provided a statement to the police stating that payments were made from Breakout Media to HeroPrint for goods and services and it was implied that Ms. Armstrong had overseen some of these transactions using funds from WJN. The witness was not cross-examined and the court was adjourned shortly after 3pm.

 

Report hearing second day of trial October 16

Update on Second day of trial.

R v Kathlin Armstrong at the Local Court of NSW

Report of Wednesday 16th October 2019 for R v Kathlin Armstrong at the Local Court of NSW, Downing Centre, Court 4.2

The R v Kathlin Armstrong hearing recommenced 9:30am, presided over by Her Honour, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman.

Kat Armstrong is charged with having returned the money lent to set up the organisation without the WJN Board's authority. She asserted the "legal right of claim", creating documents that authorised the return of the loans.

Several ex-prisoners and others who had been supported by Kat’s work attended, as well as the Justice Action team. Coordinator Brett Collins had to stay outside as he will later give evidence for Kat.

IMG 2765


The cross examination of the Catherine Brennan, previous CEO of Women’s Justice Network (WJN), resumed by the Prosecution who was showing evidence containing bank statements and other documents.

The defence began their cross-examination of Ms. Brennan, focusing their initial line of questioning of the witness around her roles as CEO of WJN. These questions surrounded her credibility and context of the relationship Ms Brennan shared with Ms Armstrong.

In cross-examination, the defence raised the issue of authorisation. Referring to bank statements attached in an email exchange between Ms Brennan and Ms Armstrong, this included a document with payments to the ATO. These payments by Ms Armstrong to the ATO were dated December 2017. This document was signed by Ms Brennan. Ms Brennan denied remembering this document, however she claimed that the signature ‘looks like hers’. The witness further claimed she ‘could’ve’ been tricked into signing the document. The witness also declared ‘I did not sign it’ as she had ‘never read it before’. She broke down into tears.

At this stage the current CEO Gloria Larman called from the body of the court for an objection. The prosecutor got to her feet, looked behind her and called “objection”. The magistrate upheld the objection. Gloria Larman has attended court every day. She is paid $130,000 a year to do the job that Kat did for no pay for seven years. Instead of taking, Kat gave her prize winnings to begin the organisation.

The defence asked the witness questions regarding a Finance sub-committee meeting that had taken place September 2017. The September sub-committee minutes documented the witness’ attendance. The witness initially denied remembering attending this meeting. She broke down into tears. The magistrate adjourned for ten minutes.

During recess, there was unpleasantness in the courtroom, with the husband of the witness verbally attacking lawyer Peter O’Brien and Ms Armstrong saying: “You fucking piece of shit.”

In re-examination, the witness recalled attending the September 2017 meeting. It was for the magistrate to determine whether leave should be granted to discuss this sub-committee meeting. The prosecution claims to not have been aware of the right of claim raised by the counsel for the defence. Despite the defence’s argument that this right of claim was made known by media and in the bail application, the magistrate ruled in favour of the prosecution for the third time that day, and granted leave.

The prosecution brought forward the witness Marissa Sandler, who was a Board member of WJN between 2007 to 2014. The prosecution asked about transactions and the process of authorisation during the early days of WJN. The witness spoke about Ms Armstrong’s efforts towards WJN, who she said ‘worked very, very hard’ and had authorisation to enter agreements with creditors for daily operations, along with other daily operations.

The fourth witness brought forward was current WJN Board President Natasha Thompson. Initially, Ms Thompson was a Board member, but resigned from her position due to a “technicality”. In January 2018, Ms Thompson rejoined as President of WJN. The prosecution questioned Ms Thompson’s knowledge of the authorisation process.

The proceedings were then adjourned for the day until 9:30am Thursday 17th October.

 

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Report hearing first day of trial October 15

Update: first day's trial.

The case is named R v Kathlin Armstrong at the Downing St Local Court in Sydney.

The media photographed Kat, her lawyers Peter O'Brien and Tahn O'Rourke as they entered.  The Justice Action team turned out in force.

KatJAteam151019
Her Honour, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman presided. Four members of the WJN Board and management sat behind the police and prosecution.

The prosecution submitted certain items of evidence later than the 14-day deadline before the date of the hearing. Her Honour Magistrate Huntsman held that, despite this having prejudiced the defence in not allowing them to sufficiently to prepare a response to the evidence (such as bringing in expert witnesses), the evidence was of too much significance not be to admitted.

The prosecution conducted their examination-in-chief of their witness, Detective Senior Counsel David Thompson. The counsel for the prosecution mainly drew out evidence consisting of documents and statements from various sources concerning the financial transactions that took place between WJN and the people whom Ms Armstrong returned funds to.

The counsel for the defence then cross examined Detective Thompson concerning his knowledge of the administrative structure of the WJN organisation, the existence of the Finance Sub-committee of the Board, and whether this knowledge was at all material to his investigation.

The prosecutor asked the Constable questions concerning the Board of WJN, its makeup, its functioning, its members and their roles. It was determined the Constable was guided by the current board members in his investigation, he didn’t consider involvement of previous board members. The Constable didn’t include/interview the Treasurer of the company during period 2013-17 (the accused period of time). The Constable reaffirmed that he was not aware of any financial sub committee.

Catherine Brennan took the stand, previous CEO of WJN (9 months during 2017-2018). Ms Brennan did not have knowledge about how the financial decisions are made within the organisation or what they are. She was knowledgeable about members of the board and their roles and that they are volunteers. She was taught her job by Kat.
She described her CEO role and responsibilities. She described her misunderstanding about procedures to do with authorising payments/invoices. Ms Brennan’s understanding was that two people had to authorise payments. She later found out that this information was incorrect, only one signature was necessary. They examined documents of financial transactions approved by Kat Armstrong to various accounts. The crown also examined texts/email between Kat Armstrong and Catherine Brennan.

Cross examination by Peter O'Brien was about to begin but the magistrate adjourned for the day until 9:30am Wednesday 16th October to Downing St Local Court 4.2.

Index page of Womens Justice Network Takeover

 

 

Women's Justice Network Takeover

Latest News
Report hearing seventh day February 21. 2020
Report hearing sixth day February 20. 2020
Report hearing fifth day February 19. 2020
Barrister Catherine Gleeson scurries away November 21
Report hearing fourth day of trial October 18
Report hearing third day of trial October 17
Report hearing second day of trial October 16 
Report hearing first day of trial 
Leaflet handout for local court October 15 
media release October 14, 2019.

Overview

The Women’s Justice Network, previously known as the Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN), was established as a grassroots community that works to raise awareness of the structural inequalities that exist for criminalised women and advocates for change to redress these injustices. Lived experience is crucial to the practical impact and success of the organisation’s functions.

Currently, however, the WJN Board is comprised only of white, middle class women from corporate backgrounds and no experience in being personally subject to the criminal justice system, contrary to the organisation’s constitutional mandate that the Board be made up of 50% ex-prisoners. This loss of prisoner input in decision making has removed its link to its community. The Board’s decision to call the police on its former CEO and co-founder Kat Armstrong is a symptom of that distance from its community culture.

Kat graduation photo

                                                                               Pictured: Kat graduating from her law degree in 2017

 

Kat, who was en ex-prisoner, initiated the organisation in 2007 and worked without pay for seven years as the CEO, doing all training, mentoring, fundraising, accounts and media work whilst training to be a lawyer. In 2017, Kat was found to have conducted a transfer of money disputed by the WJN Board, who then refused to meet with her, or her lawyers, or to talk with others involved to negotiate a restorative solution. Instead they complained to the police, defamed her to others and disgraced her with a front-page Herald article. Kat was charged with nine offences on 17 December, 2017. Her hearing is scheduled for mid-October 2019. 

The irony of these proceedings appear to be lost on the WJN Board; an organisation with the vision of ensuring that all women affected by the criminal justice system “are treated with dignity and respect and are empowered to secure and preserve their individual rights”, now working ruthlessly and without consideration for any alternative courses of action, to convict their very founder and a true champion for women in the prison system. 

Justice Action will be in support of Kat throughout the upcoming hearing, but in the mean time we are calling on changes to be made within the WJN. A collectivist, bottom-up approach to advocacy for women prisoners was and still is vital in ensuring the greatest level of engagement with a vulnerable community. We call on the current WJN Board to stand aside and support ex-prisoners to replace them.

 

See photos of Kat's achievements and awards 

Leaflet for Parliamentary Breakfast September 18, 2018: Empowering Women - Keeping Women out of Prison 

Return to Consumer Controlled Funding - Political and enconomic analysis of situation

 

 

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