Richard ‘Dick’ Paltridge was a giant of a man; physically imposing, stoic and taciturn, his dogged pursuit of what was right places him in the STT Hall of Fame.
Dick shuffled off this mortal coil on 23 March this year, leaving a legacy of peace and tranquillity in his patch of paradise, Allendale situated in South Australia’s picturesque and productive South-East, near Mount Gambier.
What Dick fought for was the preservation of his peaceful and prosperous community. And, despite all the odds, he won.
His landmark planning case was heard in South Australia’s Environment Court and he wiped the floor with his opponents. Notwithstanding their superior financial resources and notwithstanding behind-the-scenes interference by the Rann, State Labor Government.
Up against the scurrilous tactics employed by Spanish wind power outfit, Acciona, Dick Paltridge should have folded early. However, the six-foot six dairy farmer was made of much sterner stuff.
To give you a taste of what we mean, here’s what Richard had to say back in October 2013, about Acciona’s underhanded forensic tactics.
A case of BS
You may remember how in 2010/2011 I took the District Council of Grant in the SE of SA to the ERD court to have the decision of their Development Assessment Panel overturned.
Acciona took the decision to appendage themselves to the case, hoping no doubt to ensure their project at Allendale East/Eight Mile Creek would go ahead.
As you will also know their proposed project fell apart when the ERD overturned the DAP’s decision.
While I knew I was right to bring this case it was a daunting experience made worse by Acciona taking over the role of defending the approval from Council, who made little effort to defend themselves. Acciona drew the process out, probably believing I would ‘fall over’ and bow out. They were wrong.
However, sitting through it was an eye opener. What I saw was a disgrace, with a witness, Trish Godfrey intimidated and threatened even before she got in the witness box. Having met Trish some time before the case I was aware Acciona had bought her out, and I knew the reason.
When my lawyer, after being asked, told the judge our next witness would be Trish Godfrey members of Acciona’s entourage stood up, reaching for their phones while heading for the exit.
I was to meet with Trish a few hours later, but received a call from her to say she would not be able to give evidence, she had received a call from her solicitor telling her that they had heard from Acciona that she was going to give evidence, and they told them if she did she would be made an example of. Of course, Trish had little choice but to follow her solicitor’s instructions and leave the State.
When she was called and did not appear in court, as we had subpoenaed her as a witness was it possible she could have faced contempt charges?
I don’t know but Acciona obviously were running scared, why else would they have intimidated her, why would they have interfered with a court process.
Rather than hold her in contempt the judge called both sides’ lawyers into his room for a discussion. After returning to the court the judge called a break until after the Christmas holidays.
When the case resumed Trish was there to give evidence. However, during the break Acciona insisted she have a prepared statement, and she was not to answer any questions relating to health issues. Rather than Trish give evidence freely to questions asked she had to stick to pre-arranged answers that Acciona lawyers prepared for her.
Acciona had bought Trish Godfrey out, and the reason for this on the contract was because of visual amenity. If the contract was truthful you then have to wonder why they were so frightened of her answering questions about health, and why they were concerned enough to threaten her, to insist on determining what she could and couldn’t answer questions on.
How could this company dictate what evidence is given in a court by a witness for the other side? She was my witness not theirs.
Trish had been placed in an unenviable and uncomfortable situation; one which Acciona contrived by putting undue pressure on a witness. This may not have been a criminal court hearing, but is it OK to interfere with and intimidate witnesses even in this type of court?
If they were scared of Visual Amenity evidence why did they not stop her from answering questions relating to that, you really have to wonder. You also have to ask yourself the question why Acciona were so upset when later I won my case on Visual Amenity.
While this was perhaps the grossest example of their unsavoury behaviour it was not the only example.
Due the lack of worthwhile evidence, and seemingly not comfortably convinced their own ‘expert’ witness a Professor who had no experience in the field of noise and health relating to Industrial Wind Turbines, though plenty in male erectile dysfunction and weight problems was sufficiently compelling, they decided to use personal abuse and what were in essence defamatory remarks about the personal life of another of my witnesses. They attacked the person not the evidence, Acciona lawyers said marital problems were the cause of their illness not the noise from turbines.
This disgusting conduct and spurious claims with no substantiating evidence can only be seen as a lawyer with no valid counter argument to present to court.
This type of behaviour belongs in the gutter, not in a court room. My witness was not on trial, his reputation was not in question; what was, was whether his evidence was truthful, and it was up to Acciona’s lawyers to establish it was not by proving there were no health issues associated with Industrial Wind Turbines. Obviously they didn’t have any evidence so resorted to disgusting behaviour. They attacked the person not the evidence.
Should lawyers be allowed to intimidate witnesses in court by making false, demeaning claims about them? Should Acciona be allowed to intimidate a witness? Shouldn’t evidence and statements made by witnesses be their truth, in their words and not manipulated by lawyers, especially when the witness is not their witness?
This all from a company like all others in this industry who say they are good corporate citizens and only want to do good for and work for the communities they invade, and who try to give the impression they are doing nothing wrong, let’s face it it’s all BXXL SXXT.
Allendale, South Australia
Dick Paltridge was much loved by his family and community and, thanks to his landmark legal battle, much revered by STT and its thousands of followers. May he rest in peace. Thanks to him, his community always will.
For our South Australian operatives and supporters Richard’s upcoming funeral will be held at 11am on Thursday, 8 April at the Carinya Chapel, Mt Gambier. Flowers or petals can be brought to place on the coffin if you wish.