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Former Ipswich mayor awarded ‘standard’ costs

Queensland’s Police Commissioner has been ordered to pay the ‘standard’ legal costs for a failed appeal against a judge’s decision finding a former Ipswich City Council Mayor innocent of multiple criminal fraud charges.

The Court of Appeal (COA) in Brisbane on Friday ordered that Commissioner of Police Katarina Carroll pay costs of an appeal against Ipswich District Court Judge Dennis Lynch QC’s decision to acquit former mayor Andrew Antoniolli of numerous fraud counts in December 2020.

Antoniolli – a long-time former Ipswich councillor and police officer – had applied to the COA to be awarded costs on an ‘indemnity’ basis – meaning Commissioner Carroll would have been required to pay up to 90-95% of the legal costs incurred by the former mayor.

However, the COA – in a written decision led by Chief Justice Catherine Holmes AC – said there was no material submitted on behalf of Antoniolli to warrant such an order and granted an application that his costs be paid on the “standard basis”.

As a result, Antoniolli, now aged 51, stands to only recoup part of his legal expenses – around 60-75%.

In May 2018, Antoniolli was charged by the Crime and Corruption Commission and accused of misusing more than $10,000 to buy charity items.

Antoniolli was found guilty by Ipswich Magistrate Anthony Gett in August 2019 of 12 counts of fraud committed while a councillor over a 12-month period and sentenced to six months’ jail. Magistrate Gett also sentenced Antoniolli to a three-month jail term for one count of attempted fraud while he was Ipswich’s mayor.

Antoniolli successfully appealed the decision under Section 222 of the Justices Act 1886, with District Court Judge Dennis Lynch acquitting him of all charges because the presiding magistrate had erred by ignoring that Antoniolli had done nothing wrong in bidding in charity auctions, or supporting payments from an Ipswich Council community fund.

The Police Commissioner subsequently applied to the COA for leave to challenge Judge Lynch’s ruling.

The COA, in a majority decision on 9 November (2021), refused the Commissioner leave on the basis that she could not identify an arguable basis for overturning Judge Lynch’s findings.

Chief Justice Holmes, in her dissenting decision, said she would have granted the Commissioner of Police leave to appeal, but then would have dismissed the appeal.

However, the COA was unanimous in its decision last week in the awarding of costs, with Justices John Bond and Peter Flanagan agreeing with Chief Justice Holmes’ reasons.

“All members of the (COA) agreed that the administration of justice where there was an allegation of misappropriation of public money by public official (Antoniolli) was a question of public importance,” Chief Justice Holmes said.

“My differing view on the leave question shows at least (I hope) that it was a matter on which reasonable minds might differ.

“The (Police Commissioner’s) application cannot be said to have been so misconceived in this respect as to warrant indemnity costs. No other basis was identified for the award of indemnity costs.

“There was nothing in (Commissioner Carroll’s) institution or conduct of the application which was vexatious, unwarranted or unreasonable. A mere lack of success cannot justify such an award.

“There is no material before the court which would enable it to fix an amount for costs.

“(Antoniolli) should have his costs of the application on the standard basis.”

Justices Bond and Flanagan concurred, saying: “I agree with the Chief Justice.”

Read the decision.

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