23 May 2022

No conviction following intimidation guilty plea for Eden-Monaro candidate, judge labels case 'absurd'

| Claire Fenwicke
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Man outside court

Andrew Thaler outside Queanbeyan Court House. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

No conviction has been recorded for Eden-Monaro candidate Andrew Thaler following a four-year saga the judge labelled an “absurd situation”.

It’s after Mr Thaler pleaded guilty to intimidation in Queanbeyan District Court last week (19 May).

Judge Robyn Tupman said the entire case was “always a waste of everyone’s time”.

“This is at the very, very bottom level of intimidation offending,” she said.

“It seems to me that, on all sides, this incident could have been handled better.”

Judge Tupman criticised all elements of the case.

She said the police had “overcharged”, the prosecution should have used its discretion not to proceed with the case, and Mr Thaler should never have asked for a jury trial over the matter.

“Exactly why there was a need to call the police is not entirely clear,” she said.

“This was overcharged and allowed to be in the wrong court … [it’s an] absurd situation this matter is being sentenced four years after this event.”

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On 23 February 2018, Mr Thaler had a 2 pm appointment with an inspector at the RFS station in Polo Flat, outside Cooma, to receive a burn-off permit. He did not arrive until about 2:45 pm, by which time the inspector had left.

A female administrative employee said Mr Thaler had intimidated her before going behind the desk into the station’s kitchen, where he spoke with two male RFS officers.

While the agreed facts stated Mr Thaler had sworn at the woman, Judge Tupman said his tone and words were not clear.

“Tempers flared, particularly that of the offender,” Judge Tupman said.

Mr Thaler then returned to the foyer area of the building where he began recording the rest of the altercation on his phone, which was played in court.

One of the male RFS officers was recorded saying, “you’ve been abusive and rude to staff”, to which Mr Thaler responded, “I’ve been lied to … I want to show your treatment of me is wrong”.

During the argument, Mr Thaler went on to say, “you a—holes are insane” and claimed he had been “victimised” by “these bullsh-t f-cking rules”.

As the RFS members said they were calling the police, Mr Thaler made his way to the door to leave the station and said, “this is a f-ck you”, while putting up his middle finger to them before he said, “you’re ringing the police because you’re a f-cking sook … have a cry, you want a hanky?”

“[This is an] absolute f-cking joke … I’m allowed to be annoyed because I do not deserve to be treated like this,” Mr Thaler said.

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Judge Tupman said while Mr Thaler was “indignant” and swearing in the video, there was “never a time when he refused to leave the premises and he continually said that he was [going to leave]”.

“It’s quite clear Mr Thaler puts himself at risk by behaving like this,” she said.

She also said while the woman in the video appeared uncomfortable, she “did not give the impression she was particularly distressed”.

Character references for Mr Thaler were tendered in court, which Judge Tupman said described him as “frequently blunt and impatient”.

She noted it was her view that while Mr Thaler had been “irritating” in this instance, he did not deserve this incident to go on his criminal record.

“Overall, it seems to be conviction is not necessary,” Judge Tupman said.

Mr Thaler paused for photos outside of Queanbeyan Court House. When asked for his reaction to the verdict, he responded: “what is there to say?”

Mr Thaler’s defence team indicated it would submit a costs application to the court.

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