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Weekly Times 14 Aug 2012

Charges dropped against duck rescuer

Weekly Times:  Sandra Godwin |  August 14, 2012

LEGAL costs of $8687 have been awarded to a duck rescuer after charges against him were dropped in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Anthony Murphy, 56, of Brunswick, had been charged with failing to kill an injured bird he was carrying to shore at Hird Swamp, near Kerang, on the final weekend of last year’s duck shooting season.

Coalition Against Duck Shooting campaign director Laurie Levy said the charge was vexatious and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries had done the right thing by withdrawing it.

”Rescuers don’t kill wounded birds,” he said.

”We take them to seek medical treatmant – to vets et cetera – and we’ve done that for 25 years.”

Mr Levy said Mr Murphy was initially issued with a fine, which he refused to pay on a matter of principle, forcing the matter to court.

A prosecutor for the Victorian Department of Primary Industries withdrew the charge, as well as one count of hindering hunters.

Mr Murphy, who has been rescuing ducks for 17 years, said today that he had been confident of defending the charge of failing to kill, particularly after scathing comments in June by Magistrate Peter Mealy in sentencing five other rescuers on charges of hindering or annoying hunters.

Each of the five was placed on a good behaviour bond and had no conviction recorded. A DPI request for costs of $18,000 was rejected.

”As he was summing up, he was extremely critical of the department for failing to look after the welfare of birds,” Mr Murphy said.

”He was quite offended by the prosecution idea that it should be up to volunteers to look after the welfare of birds when the department had clearly failed to do anything themselves.

”We think that’s probably why they decided to withdraw the charge – they didn’t want to lose further ground.”

Mr Murphy said chief magistrate Ian Gray yesterday recognised the failure to kill charge was a test case.

”It’s the first time a rescuer has been charged with it and we’re hoping it will be the last,” he said.

”If they try again, we’ve done the ground work and we’ve got a file 50mm thick with paperwork on it.”

Mr Murphy said it was only a matter of time until laws were reformed.

In the meantime, he was hopeful that government departments would be more impartial.