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Loggers found guilty of assault after years of continued trauma for victims

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Sue Higginson
NSW Greens MP
17 April 2024

15 January 2024 - The Coffs Harbour Local Court has today (15 January 2024) found two forestry workers guilty of assaulting two members of the community on a public road in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest on 25 June 2020. Michael Luigi Vitali and Rodney James Hearfield were found guilty of assault. The assaults were recorded on a mobile camera device by Forestry Corporation Officer Karen Morrow. The two guilty men were, at the time, employed by logging company Greensill Bros that was contracted by the NSW Forestry Corporation, a state owned corporation. 

Greens MP and spokesperson for the environment said “Today’s judgement is well overdue and is the end of a harrowing experience for the two victims, Mark Graham and Andre Johnston. Mark and Andre were on a public road, in a public forest, when the forestry workers approached, threatened and then assaulted them all while being filmed by an employee of the NSW Forestry Corporation (a State Owned Corporation), who did nothing to stop the assaults,”

“The initial investigation into these assaults resulted in the charging of one of the victims, Mark Graham, who is a forest ecologist. The NSW Police, after discussions with the Forestry Corporation charged Mr Graham with approaching forestry operations, those charges were wrongly pressed and were later withdrawn. The fact that Mr Graham was charged for a crime when he was a victim of what the Magistrate described as a violent assault on a public road, in a public forest, and it was captured on video, can only be described as a wilful miscarriage of justice. The Magistrate noted that the evidence showed Sergeant Goddard had been very helpful to the guilty men and took a serious dislike to the victims of the assaults.”

“The video evidence is confronting and unambiguous. Two members of the community, who are acting in a friendly and non-threatening manner, are approached by two agitated and hostile forestry workers who then proceed to assault them, demand their personal property and shout threatening abuse at them. It is gross and brutal and shows the level of impunity that forestry workers are afforded from their actions when the local police then charge the victims of the assault instead of the perpetrators,”

“It is deeply disturbing and disappointing that it has taken more than three and a half years for these assaults to be resolved, especially considering they were captured on camera by an employee of the Forestry Corporation,”

“The NSW Forestry Corporation should immediately suspend all contracts with the logging company Greensill Bros, to make it clear that private companies operating in public forests will be held to account when their employees commit acts of violence against members of the community.”

“It is a good day for justice, as slow and bumpy as this road has been for Mark and Andre. There must be a strong response from the Government about the appropriateness of allowing thugs to work in our public forests and how the police respond to these sorts of unacceptable acts of violence,” Ms Higginson said.

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Sue Higginson
NSW Greens MP
17 April 2024


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