WJN Takeover: Decision
On October 21, 2020, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman presented her decision in the case of R v Kathlin Armstrong. The defence team for Ms Armstrong comprised Peter O’Brien and Elliot Rowe.
The case took place under covid circumstances, with Kat only allowed two support people. A large number of people had wanted to attend but sent her messages of support instead.
The Magistrate spent over four hours examining the law on the “legal right of claim” and the evidence before stating her decision.
The Magistrate said that Kat “may well have felt she had the moral right” to transfer money from the WJN account to pay unpaid wages and return money given to WJN to create the organisation. But the magistrate said that the absence of documentation of the terms of the loans or deferred payment of wages, meant that she was not prepared to accept that WJN had those obligations and that Kat had a “legal right of claim”.
Kat contemplating the next move
The Magistrate said that she accepted the evidence of all the witnesses that Kat had been the driving force to create and manage the organisation. She accepted that Kat had been the CEO, mentoring coordinator, fundraiser, Treasurer, bookkeeper, and Chair of the Board and hadn’t been paid, while others doing the same jobs were paid. But she said she found it “implausible” that Kat would not have asked the Board to return the money if they owed it.
She clearly didn’t understand that Kat didn’t trust the Board not to abandon the organisation if they felt the job was too hard or felt it was financially fragile and put them at risk as directors. The Board comprised lawyers, academics and bureaucrats whom Kat had invited to join her, as they were needed to bring support and expertise in behind Kat’s commitment as a woman ex-prisoner, determined to serve her community.
The Board of WJN was entirely happy with Kat carrying financial responsibility, balancing the books for WJN and Breakout, and allowing the organisations to flourish for many years, until some unusual book entries drew attention. She had made the structure work.
The Magistrate misunderstood the trust that had been given to WJN as part of the family, enjoying full support until it was able to stand by itself. It was a project conceptualised and developed by Justice Action supported by the social enterprise Breakout. The obligation was always understood that the support would be returned as a child gives a parent. Family members don’t sign contracts! WJN Board acted as though the funding money that finally arrived was theirs with no strings attached. They enjoyed the power of success without seeing themselves as part of a grassroots based organisation founded by women ex-prisoners. That became most obvious when they called the police on the woman who gave them everything.
Finally the Magistrate declared Kat guilty of all charges!! She said she will decide a penalty on Tuesday December 8.
Kat’s team is preparing for an appeal to the District Court.
Index page: Women's Justice Network Takeover