Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scorecard: Chris Condon 8 v Police 0 - Townsville show boss and political dabbler beats a bum rap yet again.

This is an extra column, the regular Saturday offering will be posted as usual.

He's done it again. Or perhaps more accurately, the police have yet again not done it - again. Chris Condon has been cleared of illegally slapping  a man to the ground injuring his jaw when the show boss confronted what he believed to be a trespasser on showground property.

For background on the incident and the the appeal which resulted in a re-trial being ordered, read this beautifully written (heh heh heh) article here.

After the expense of a trial, a successful appeal against the conviction and sentence on a charge of grievous bodily harm, and a successful hearing to have the re-trial moved to Mackay (opposed by the Crown), the DPP earlier this week decided to take their bat and ball and go home.

Retired hurt would be the better analogy when the Crown declined to go ahead with the fresh trial in the neutral territory of Mackay. The official term is Nolle prosequi 'to be unwilling to pursue', and it is hoped that this touch of erudite and cultured language will be balm for the  the severely mauled taxpayers who foot the bill for legal misadventures like this.

Misadventure? Well, given that Condon is no shrinking violet, has been constantly in the news for business, political and court reasons and is clearly a polarising figure in this community, his assault trial should never have been held in Townsville - everybody, no doubt including every juror, would have had an opinion one way or the other about the defendant. 

On top of that, the evidence was thin for the prosecution, and even the Judge Kerry O'Brien made it clear that the most credible witness was a schoolteacher who witnessed Condon being struck first. 

So, by Condon's own count, eight times now, the police have brought charges against him, and eight times, their efforts have been in vain, through procedural, investigative or court room cock-ups. In at least one incident, the matter hardly left the starting gates before the magistrate threw it out as no case to answer. The history of this series of appearances took on the distinct flavour of the police wanting something a bit too much.

Condon has his own decided view of this history, which is a conspiracy theory intertwining political skullduggery and police pettiness through what he believes to be a personal vendetta by one senior police officer (who is no longer in Townsville). He takes the view, in colourful terms which will not sully your eyes, that the wallopers in each case were reluctantly carrying out the orders of this senior officer and were pushed to bring matters before court. Hence, matters were not handled with the care or thoroughness according to the book, that book in this case being The Police Powers And Responsibities Act. 

But even if, as Condon claims, there is an element of (unexplained) vindictiveness in all this, authorities can enjoy the cold comfort that has cost Condon big time. His security operator's licence was suspended when he was charged with this latest matter, so his security business could not operate, costing him `hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past couple of years'. 

This insidious bit of (fairly typical) Queensland legislation allowing the suspension of a security licence when the holder is merely charged hands the authorities the power to punish before a person is found  guilty. And if the charge eventually falls over, as in Condon's case, there is no recourse or compensation. 

The Magpie is of the opinion that the Police Commissioner , who is so worried about the corrupting influence of half-price Big Macs for the boys and girls on the beat (cholesterol would be a bigger threat than corruption), he would serve us better by considering legislation like this and looking into the clear corruptible possibilities of it and other laws - particularly the completely arbitrary powers wielded by liquor licensing cops. Indeed, some of the booze laws can allow so-minded licensees to nobble competitors by setting up 'incidents' inside rival establishments that allow the cops to penalise. The Magpie wants to be clear that he is talking about possibity only and has not a skerrick of evidence that any Queensland police officer is or has been doing the wrong thing in this regard. The argument is that the temptation should be removed.

The Magpie does not know Chris Condon socially and has only ever met him in the court environs (when The `Pie was the Astonisher's court reporter) or at the showgrounds for some story or other. The `Pie's relations have always been cordial with Condon, who has forever been the darling of the Townsville rumour mill - the whispers range across the entire landscape of naughtiness, from honking his nose in the shower to thumping people for money or political purposes to bumping people off, none of which has ever gone even close to being verified. If the behind-the-hand pub whisperers had their way, they'd ping him for JFK's assassination. 

Condon possibly is no angel outside his successful role as show boss, and it is known he doesn't duck a confrontation, whether it be political with His Radiance Mayor Mooney who wanted to flog off the showgrounds to developers, to manning up against strikebreakers at Townsville Port, or staring down the standover tactics of seemingly corrupt sideshow operators. And yes, he does - or did - promote violent Bad Boy fight events, seen by many as verging on the anti-social, and he does get around with a motley crew of bent noses and cauliflower ears. 

But so what?

None of this counts for anything in light of the fact that Condon has the same entitlement that we are all supposed to have - innocent until proven guilty. The wallopers now know they will really need to be sure of their ground before coming out for round nine. If not, they and the taxpayer will cop another hiding.  

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