No conspiracy behind incorrectly telling alleged Melbourne BLM protest organisers their charges were dropped, court hears

It was regrettable that two accused Black Lives Matter protest organisers were incorrectly told charges against them would be dropped, but it was not a conspiracy, a magistrate has heard.

Meriki Onus and Crystal McKinnon were accused of breaching the chief health officer’s Covid directions by arranging the protest in June 2020.

The Melbourne magistrates court was told they were charged almost a year later and then notified on 29 June this year that charges would be dropped because they were “fatally flawed”.

But the counsel for the prosecution, Andrew Sim, said the acting sergeant who made that call did not have the authority to do so and the charges were continuing.

“There’s no great conspiracy here about malfeasance, or a political decision,” Sim told the court on Wednesday.

“It was an error about someone thinking they had the file and they didn’t.”

The barrister representing the women, Felicity Gerry QC, told the court the women wanted police to hand over a series of documents that they believe may show the women have suffered an injustice.

Victoria police has challenged a subpoena which Sim described as a “fishing expedition”.

Sim told the court it would require an oppressive exercise, searching individually through more than 50,000 documents for details that may not exist.

He said it was regrettable the women were notified of an intention to withdraw the charges, but noted it was just an intention.

A charge is not withdrawn until an application is made and granted in court, he said.

Magistrate Andrew McKenna earlier made the same observation, suggesting that without a decisive step asking the court to dispose of charges the case remained at square one.

But Gerry described the intended withdrawal, communicated to the women first and later confirmed by their solicitor, as unequivocal.

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“One has to be able to rely on those processes when you have someone working in the Melbourne prosecutions office, otherwise it’s chaos,” she told the court.

McKenna said sometimes decisions go through a number of hands, including some with different views, before a final result.

“These things happen,” he said. “And with more regularity than perhaps some might appreciate.”

The hearing continues.

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