Retiree taken to court in council bid to access property
AN OUTSPOKEN retiree who has erected large billboards alleging corruption by politicians, the courts and police, now claims moves by Ipswich City Council to remove the structures is an attack on his right to free speech.
The activist and serial litigant promotes his 'Haig Report' website. The site has raised eyebrows but it is his boldly written messages displayed in his Booval front yard that has drawn the attention of the council.
In a bid to remove the structures holding up the signs, Ipswich City Council launched legal action involving 69-year-old Russell Gordon Haig Mathews in Ipswich Magistrates Court this week. The council is seeking a court order to enter Mr Mathews' yard and remove what it claims are illegal structures.
Lawyer Kevin Lynch and compliance officer Peter Bartley made an application before Magistrate David Shepherd for court consent under the Local Government Act.
Mr Lynch said the council intended to carry out works and remove two unapproved structures located at the property at 119 Brisbane Rd, Booval.
Council officers had not been able to enter the yard because of a locked gate and a large dog roaming inside.
Council officers had the Booval house under surveillance on the day before Christmas and took photographs which were tendered as evidence.
A signed affidavit by Peter Bartley states he observed Mr Mathews constructing a structure, "it appeared to be an advertising device, or a billboard".
He said the council received complaints about the billboards on January 8.
Then on January 17, he and another compliance officer went to the house and saw the two structures and billboards.
After taking 12 photos, Mr Bartley said Mr Mathews then took photos of them and the car registration.
On January 18 Mr Bartley determined the advertising device structures did not meet building regulations and were in breach of the Planning Act by not having the necessary permits.
A Show Cause notice was issued to Mr Mathews on January 18 with Mr Bartley twice going to the house to put the official letters into his letterbox.
The court heard an Enforcement Notice was issued on April 17 giving Mr Mathews five days to remove the structures.
The signs remained.
Mr Shepherd asked Mr Bartley to provide evidence of Matthews refusing entry to the property.
Mr Lynch said there had been general obstruction with gates and doors locked and dogs on the premises. Mr Mathews had indicated informally that no access would be granted.
Mr Lynch then sought if Mr Mathews could simply indicate in the courtroom "as to whether he would consent".
Mr Shepherd replied that his court was not an evidence gathering body for the council.
Mr Lynch said council's submission was that it was a general obstructionist approach.
The court also heard there were Supreme Court proceedings against Mr Mathews brought by the Queensland Attorney General.
That action involves alleged contempt and pertains to a message regarding the court system.
Mr Mathews said the matter was irrelevant to the matter before the court.
He said the council was seeking the court order as a way of shutting down his political commentary.
"All the signs are political matters and are protected," he said. "Protection of political conversation.
"The scaffolding is incidental to the signs which won't stand up by themselves.
"I maintain as a political communication it is protected by the Australian Constitution."
Mr Mathews then referred to a prior court decision in another legal case at Townsville as being relevant in that political communication should not be obstructed or restricted.
Mr Shepherd said he wanted more information on the Application and also of the Supreme Court matters as this may impact on the council matter.
Seeking more information regarding Mr Mathews' consent to enter and remove the structures, and further detail on the Supreme Court Application, Mr Shepherd adjourned proceedings to July.
Keep your hat on, but the dogs can stay out
"MY skull is grossly deformed under my hat. To observers it looks yuk," Russell Mathews told Ipswich Magistrate David Shepherd when he sought to keep his hat on during this week's court proceedings.
"It will not offend me," Mr Shepherd him.
"I'm sure if you remove your hat it will not offend."
"It is a disability aid," Mr Mathews responded.
Mr Shepherd eventually allowed Mr Mathews to keep his hat on.
Mr Mathews also sought permission to have his dogs Pyosik and Sooka allowed in the courtroom, saying they were "assistance animals" to help with his disabilities.
Mr Mathews complained that court security refused entry to the dogs and to his trolley.
Mr Shepherd told him it was a matter for security staff to decide.
Clad in a blue singlet, long shorts, boots and a large hat, Mr Mathews claimed he was being discriminated against by not being allowed to bring his dogs inside.
Mr Shepherd noted, however, that the so-called 'certificate' produced by Mr Mathews appeared to have been written by Mr Mathews.
The Magistrate assured him that if he provided the appropriate documentation he would allow one dog in his courtroom.
With regard to a large trolley that Mr Mathews wheeled to the courthouse, Mr Shepherd said if it held signs or slogans it would not be allowed in the court.