‘Bias’: RSPCA seeks new magistrate for trial
The RSPCA has requested a new magistrate to preside over a trial after the charity accused a Townsville magistrate of being biased.
Townsville Magistrates Court magistrate Viviana Keegan ordered the RSPCA to hand back three dogs to their owners, Brodie Lee Rapetti and Carmen Brennan, on July 13.
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The dogs were seized over alleged neglect.
At the last court date on July 31, the court heard the RSPCA had not returned the dogs as they did not believe the court had the power to make the order.
The couple are facing 49 combined criminal charges including 16 counts of fail to take reasonable steps to provide for the animals' needs for displaying normal patterns of behaviour in a way that is appropriate.
Solicitor Zoe Navarro, acting on behalf of the RSPCA, said the organisation was requesting a three-day trial.
"It is listed for one day but there are 12 prosecution witnesses and several hours of body-worn camera footage and audio recordings," Ms Navarro said.
"It was a lengthy investigation before the seizure of the animals."
Mr Rapetti and Ms Brennan have not entered a plea for the charges and did not appear in court.
Ms Navarro said the RSPCA was requesting a new magistrate for the trial after two comments that had been made by Ms Keegan in previous mentions.
"The transcript was ordered by the RSPCA and the comment in terms of, 'I don't know what power I have to return the dogs ... because the RSPCA are a bit challenging to deal with'," she said.
"Then later your honour said, 'don't get excited, it is the RSPCA ... I don't know what they can do but they might try to stop it but we will see how we go'."
Ms Keegan asked Ms Navarro: "Sorry, what's wrong with those comments?"
Ms Navarro said the comments could give rise to "perceived bias".
Ms Keegan told Ms Navarro the Magistrates Court did not work on a docket system anymore.
"When I list something it is allocated randomly," she said.
"It doesn't matter to me, I just turn up to work and do whatever I am allocated."
The matter is now set for a two-day trial on October 22 and 23.
Originally published as 'Bias': RSPCA seeks new magistrate for trial