Guilty plea in pamphlet case
A former deputy mayor who anonymously published election pamphlets has pleaded guilty.
Marion Councillor Luke Hutchinson has entered a guilty plea on to two counts of publishing electoral material without a name and address, which carries a maximum fine of $2,500 under the South Australian Local Government Act.
He appears to be the first person to be prosecuted over the offence in Australia.
“My learned friend and I are unaware of any prior prosecutions under this legislation,” counsel for the South Australian Electoral Commission Louise Kleinig told the court.
Ms Kleinig said the laws were aimed at protecting the integrity of the electoral process.
“The breach of the law involved an element of pre-planning and deception,” she said.
“[It] was a deliberate offence directed, if it was successful, towards manipulating or altering the composition of the council which Mr Hutchinson hoped to sit on.”
The court heard the pamphlets contained allegations about two councillors who were seeking re-election in other wards.
Defence lawyer Tim Bourne said his client was not trying to “protect his turf”.
“Mr Hutchinson was concerned about conduct he observed by the other councillors, particularly in relation to their interaction with council staff [and] complaints that were made about their behaviours,” he said.
“He considered this impacted adversely on the productivity of council staff and the financial position of the council in dealing with those issues.
“His motivation was to draw those concerns to the attention of residents who partake in the election in those two wards.”
Mr Bourne said Mr Hutchinson did not put his name on the documents as he “didn't wish to suffer any backlash”.
Mr Bourne asked for a a fine without a conviction being recorded.
Magistrate John Fahey was presented with two character references in support of his client from the Mayor and chief executive officer of the City of Marion.
The sentence will be handed down in October.