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.

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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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