Report hearing fifth day of trial February 19, 2020
Wednesday 19th February 2020 for R v Kathlin Armstrong at the Downing Centre Local Court 5.5.
Last heard in October of 2019, Kat Armstrong’s case was recommenced today at 9:30 am and presided over by Her Honour, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman. The defence team is Peter O’Brien and Elliot Rowe.
Turning up in support of Kat was Debbie Kilroy OAM, one of the Australia’s key leaders advocating for the protection of human rights of women and young people through decarceration. Debbie established Sisters Inside, an internationally recognized organization that provides support to women with lived prison experience. Her work with Sisters Inside was the inspiration for Kat’s vision to create the Women’s Justice Network as a resource for ex-prisoners by ex-prisoners. In breach of the WJN Constitution, no Board members of WJN had lived experience, and instead took over the organisation whilst calling the police on Kat.
The Justice Action team was also present to support Kat.
Inside the courtroom, Mr O’Brien resumed cross-examination of Vice President of WJN, Nicki Petrou. The key issue raised by Mr O’Brien concerned the absence of payment to Kat undertaking additional roles as well as her role as CEO of WJN. One such example was Kat taking over as Administrator and Bookkeeper from June 2014 to August 2016, a previous role held by Helen Duwett. Although Helen was paid as a previous employee, Kat was not paid for doing the same duties.
Mr O’Brien claimed that Kat had to be eventually paid when WJN had sufficient funds. Ms Petrou objected, as the minutes did not make explicit whether she should be paid, or not paid for these extra roles. She did however mention that she was paid for her duties as a CEO for a short period.
Then evidence arose regarding the payment of the “Vodafone Grant” received by Kat in May 2013, to be paid to her for working at a charity for a year. The Vodafone Grant was worth $85,000 but $44,000 was not paid to her. Mr O’Brien asserted that since the money was not set aside specifically to pay Ms Armstrong, it was misused as funds for payment to other employees.
After a short break, further evidence arose as minutes from a WJN executive meeting from July 2015 showed Kat undertook a variety of roles such as a figurehead, consultant etc; but again never received any remuneration for those roles. Mr O’Brien also brought up the ‘us and them’ mentality at WJN between the women from professional backgrounds and the women with lived experience. Petrou disagreed with this statement and said there was a disagreement between Lana Sandas (employed by SERCO) and Kat.
Helen Dunstan, Secretary of the Board in 2016, was next called upon as a witness by the prosecution. She made a statement regarding Kat’s mindset during the 2017 period. She also stated that she wasn’t aware of any outstanding payments owed to Kat, Breakout or any other printing company.
The day ended with Magistrate Huntsman’s first ruling in favour of Kat. The prosecution sought leave to bring in a witness who was not disclosed to the defence prior to the trial. The magistrate took into account legislation such as the Criminal Procedures Act and several cases. Given that the defence had prepared the case based on the evidence already served, Magistrate Huntsman emphasized the need to act in the interest of justice and procedural fairness, ultimately ruling against the prosecution.
The defence case begins tomorrow with Kat Armstrong on the stand.