Patricia Petersen leaves court on December 2.
Patricia Petersen leaves court on December 2.

NOT GUILTY: Former mayoral candidate and sacked councillor go head to head in court

A MAYORAL candidate accused of making threats to former Ipswich City councillor Paul Tully before the 2017 mayoral race has been found not guilty.

In a call to Mr Tully, Patricia Petersen asked that he hold off announcing his intention to run for the position of mayor until they met, saying she knew about his conduct and was considering going to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Patricia May Petersen, 55, a former local government candidate, pleaded not guilty in Ipswich District Court to one count of threatening to cause detriment to Paul Gregory Tully on June 21, 2017 with intent to hinder him from doing acts he was lawfully able.

At the time of the call Mr Tully was acting mayor.

A recording of the phone call between former councillor and former mayoral candidate Patricia Petersen was played to the court as follows:

Petersen: Hi Paul.
Tully: Good day mate how are you. Paul Tully here Patricia.
Petersen: Good. Yeh Paul Tully. Paul I want you to hold off announcing running for mayor because I need to talk to you about your conduct.
And I am considering going to the CCC and I am considering ensuring that there are charges brought against you.
But this is your opportunity to back down. I need to talk to you within the next 24 hours. And we need to sort this out.

Tully: Yes. About what sort of stuff.
Petersen: Misfeasance in public office for one.
Tully: Sorry?
Petersen: We can start there. Misfeasance in public office. That would be the first charge but there is more than that.
I know everything Paul. And I am prepared to go to the triple-C unless we can have a conversation pretty much pronto.
I'm here to see Paul Pisasale as his friend. He's just about to come out. As a support person I am concerned about his health. You and I need to talk as soon as possible.

Tully: Okay. Well. I don't know what you are talking about in relation to any unlawful conduct. I certainly don't. I don't know what you are referring to.
Petersen: So you are you happy to talk? I am coming to Ipswich after this where are you going to be so that we can meet up.
Tully: I will be around Ipswich most of the afternoon. But my decision to make any announcement will be separate to any sort of pressure not to do that under threat of someone going to the CCC.
Petersen: Okay your decision.
Tully: Well I got to say it's quite unusual for someone to put a person in public office under that sort of threat. That sort of concerns me. I take that as a threat to alter my conduct in relation to a matter. Um for something I don't know you are referring to. You, you can be your own judge whether or not that's appropriate.
Petersen: I think you need to do what is right for Ipswich. You've been there for a very long time. Just allow a clean-skin.
Tully: Oh well that's a different issue. The public can judge that Patricia. That's a completely different issue.
Petersen: Okay that's up to you.
Tully: I'm happy to talk to you this afternoon. Okay. Thank you.
Petersen: Absolutely. Bye bye.

In a short, sharp, one day trial before a jury panel of six men and six women, the not guilty verdict was reached soon after juror deliberations began in the late afternoon.

The key evidence in the Crown case was a three minute phone conversation recorded by Mr Tully and Ipswich City Council staffers that took place between him and Ms Petersen prior to his announcement to stand as a candidate in the mayoral by-election.

Ms Petersen did not know she was being recorded when Mr Tully phoned her back after she earlier phoned his office and spoke to an officer saying she wanted to talk to Mr Tully.

When Mr Tully called her back, Ms Petersen said "I want you to hold off announcing running for mayor because I need to talk to you about your conduct. And I am considering going to the CCC."

She added "I know everything Paul" then expressed her concern at the health of friend and former mayor Paul Pisasale.

Crown prosecutor Sarah Farnden called one witness, Caroline Hall, to give evidence who had been employed as a council officer and taken the first call at 11.30am from Ms Petersen, saying it was urgent and she wanted to speak to Paul Tully.

In her evidence Ms Hall agreed Ms Petersen said in the call that unless she spoke to Mr Tully she had some information that she was "considering" going to the CCC with.

In her opening of the case Ms Farnden said the Crown must satisfy the jury that two key elements were proven - that Ms Petersen threatened to cause a detriment to Mr Tully; and (if so) a threat made to hinder him from doing a lawful act to run for mayor by saying she would go to the CCC.

 

Former councillor Paul Tully.
Former councillor Paul Tully.

 

At the time Mr Tully was already subject to CCC and had given evidence, the court heard.

Ms Farnden told the court Mr Tully made the announcement to run for mayor not long after the phone call. Ms Petersen announced on July 12 she was nominating to run for mayor in the August 2017 by-election.

Defence barrister Paula Morreau said the call indicated the genuine concerns of Ms Petersen "and doesn't suggest she was intending to hinder him in his political ambitions".

"The words used are simply not enough to render someone guilty of (making) threats".

Ms Morreau said the jury could not find as in the Crown allegation she was interfering in his right to run in the by-election.

"It is an innocent intent," Ms Morreau said.

"Yes there is a purpose to speak to Mr Tully. Yes before he made his announcement. She arranges to meet with him to discuss this material. To talk to him. Maybe to give him natural justice. To hear him out. Can't do that in a three minute call on a speaker phone."

"He says he is still announcing (his candidacy) and they make arrangement to meet up."

Ms Morreau in her address to the jury said it could not find that Ms Petersen had intent to hinder Mr Tully's free will in running for (mayoral) office.

"It was not intended to stop him pursuing his political aims," she said.

"Mr Tully was acting mayor at the time. You would not find she had that level of authority (that would stop him nominating).

"It was taped. Obviously some foresight by Mr Tully he foresee the possibility to set her up. He knew what he said was being tape recorded.

"The innocent intent here you can't reject is to get him to talk to her about the information (she says she has) that's the crux of this call - it's not criminal intent."

Judge Dennis Lynch QC told the jury to take into account that Ms Petersen did not know the call was being recorded, or would one day be played to a jury in a trial and if she had, might have been more careful in her words.