Weir lawyer seeks to have case thrown out

Darren Weir

Darren Weir (Image: Racing Photos)

The defence lawyer for Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir has told a committal hearing at the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court that he’ll press ‘forcefully’ to have the case against his client thrown out.

Weir and his former stable employees Jarrod McLean, William Hernan and Tyson Kermond are contesting charges including animal cruelty and conspiring to defraud racing stewards.

Weir’s lawyer, Ian Hill QC, described the conspiracy charges in particular as ‘misconceived’ and ‘duplicitous’.

Hill also accused Victoria Police of withholding evidence that could see Weir cleared of the charges.

The Crown case relies on covert police footage recorded on the October 30, 2018 that allegedly shows electric shocks being administered to horses in Weir’s care using a device known as a ‘jigger’.

But the court heard the police brief failed to mention that detectives had recorded hundreds of hours of other footage at Weir’s Warrnambool and Ballarat stables in which nothing untoward had happened.

Also during Wednesday’s hearing, defence lawyer Jason Gullaci, acting for McLean, accused police of ‘slicing and dicing’ their phone-tap evidence, and relying on the ‘footy highlights’ to establish a case.

Gullaci told the court the lead investigator in the case, Detective Senior Constable Cliff Pickett, had left out crucial sections of phone conversations between Weir staffers.

“You have tried to distort the conversation so it looks as incriminating as possible,” Gullaci told Senior Constable Pickett.

Under cross examination, Senior Constable Pickett admitted he’d left parts of some of the recorded conversations out of the police brief, but he disagreed that he’d taken any information out of context.

Weir and his co-accused faced a two-day hearing to decide whether there’s enough evidence against them for the case to be heard in front of a jury.

The case will return to the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court on October 8.

Earlier on Wednesday, it was claimed police may have left out crucial evidence.

While the specific footage was recorded on October 30, 2018, the court heard Victoria Police’s brief of evidence failed to mention that secret cameras had been filming continuously at Weir’s Warrnambool and Ballarat operations for several weeks around that date.

Senior Constable Pickett, who is part of Victoria Police’s Sporting Integrity Unit, testified that while he hadn’t seen all of the covert footage himself, he didn’t believe it contained anything incriminating.

“Apart from one occasion when I saw (horses) being tortured,” Senior Constable Pickett said.

Under cross examination by Hill, Senior Constable Pickett acknowledged he hadn’t told two key prosecution witnesses, animal expert Dr Andrew McLean and Chief Steward Robert Cram, that police had recorded hundreds of hours of other footage during their investigation.

Senior Constable Pickett also acknowledged he knew the extra video evidence could potentially result in Weir being cleared.

He testified that police had recorded about 460 hours of covert footage but showing it all to expert witnesses ‘just wasn’t feasible and it wasn’t relevant’.

But Senior Constable Pickett denied he had deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence from Dr McLean.

“I didn’t withhold it, I just chose what to show him,” he told the court.

Dr McLean gave evidence in court on Tuesday that in his opinion Weir’s horses had not shown any signs of pain when they were allegedly subjected to electric shocks and he couldn’t be sure that electric shocks had actually been administered.

The two-day hearing was held before Magistrate Rod Saines.