By Michael Giles
JUSTICE delayed is justice denied, they say. And that may well apply to the serious drugs charges which have been hanging over the head of controversial former South Gippsland Shire Councillor Jeremy Rich for more than two years now.
But despite being listed for decision on numerous occasions, during that time, notwithstanding the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns, the case was again deferred in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court on Wednesday this week.
The charges arise out of a police raid at his family’s farming property at Walkerville on Monday, April 15, 2019, when it is alleged a crop of cannabis, various drugs including cocaine and two firearms were seized.
Magistrate Guillaume Bailin had indicated his intention, at an earlier contest mention on Monday, May 10, that he would proceed to hear the matter if Mr Rich’s lawyers weren’t able to come to an agreement with the Office of Public Prosecutions.
However, on an application from prominent Melbourne barrister, Paul Galbally, the principal of William Street legal firm Galbally & O’Bryan, he agreed to a final adjournment, until Friday, August 13.
“Discussions have taken place with the Office of Public Prosecutions and a position has been put by the defence which is now under consideration,” Mr Galbally told the court.
“We seek a short adjournment to allow time for the OPP to get some instructions,” he said.
Counsel for the prosecution, Philip Teo, wasn’t impressed.
“I do have some concerns about a further delay to this matter,” Mr Teo told the court.
However, Magistrate Bailin said he was minded to give one last contest mention opportunity before going ahead and having the case heard.
“If it is not resolved on the next occasion, I will need to send it off for a hearing,” he said, noting that he would not be the one to finally hear the case.
Mr Galbally held out some hope the matter might be resolved earlier when he asked if there might be an opportunity to advise the court before August 13 of an agreement.
“You can bring it back anytime after July 13, have a try after that Mr Galbally.”
Among the charges being faced by Mr Rich are the following:
* Possession, cultivation and trafficking cannabis
* Possession and trafficking cocaine
* Possession of a .22 rife, a shotgun and cartridges without a licence.
* And, as the owner/occupier of the land, that he allegedly allowed another to cultivate a drug of dependence (cannabis).
All of the parties appeared remotely by video link, although while Mr Galbally and Mr Teo turned on their cameras, Mr Rich did not and wasn’t visible to the court.