A magistrate has knocked back an application for a violence restraining order against City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder chief executive John Walker by an elderly resident he verbally abused in expletive-laden voicemails earlier this year, in response to a public Facebook post criticising his son’s involvement in the “Budgie Nine” scandal.
Sandra De Maio said Mr Walker’s voice messages were threatening but he had not tried to contact David Coulston, since and did not pose an ongoing threat to him.
“There’s been no repetition in the behaviour you complained of,” the magistrate said.
The court heard there had been no exchange between Mr Coulston and Mr Walker since February 13.
Appearing in Kalgoorlie Magistrate’s Court on Monday, an emotional Mr Coulston said he “feared for his safety” after Mr Walker threatened to “f…..g destroy” him in voice messages on February 13.
Mr Coulston claimed during a two-minute phone conversation the same day, Mr Walker called him “a little c…,” and said “I will get you” and “you will not walk away”. Mr Walker disputed Mr Coulston’s recollection of the phone call, describing the argument as a “fair dinkum slog between two people”.
Defence lawyer Carmel McKenzie said Mr Coulston’s account of the phone call was different from one given at a hearing on February 20 and accused him of “literally making it up”.
Mr Coulston said he believed his phone had been bugged for quite some time and, breaking down in tears, described losing a very good friend and fishing partner to a coward’s punch.
He said Mr Walker was a foot (30cm) taller and 10 stone (63.5kg) heavier than him and he was afraid the same would happen to him.
Ms De Maio said she found Mr Walker’s language offensive but said Mr Coulston’s behaviour since those calls indicated he was not intimidated.
“His actions might be regrettable … (but) that was a one-off, ill-advised action on his part that won’t be repeated,” she said.
The court heard of Mr Coulston’s barrage of public online accusations against Mr Walker before and after the call, which Ms McKenzie described as “derogatory and defamatory”.
Mr Walker’s calls came the day after Mr Coulston published a Facebook post on a public group about the cashless welfare card, criticising Mr Walker’s son Jack, who gained notoriety in 2016 as a member of the so-called “Budgie Nine”.
In the February 12 Facebook post, Mr Coulston said: “I have never shoe-ed booze and disgraced myself in another country and have my dad bring me home.”
Mr Walker called Mr Coulston the next day and left two voicemails, played in court, in which Mr he called Mr Coulston a “gutless piece of s…” and said he had “breached a line” with Mr Walker’s family.
“I’ll f…… destroy you, you big piece of s…,” he said in the voicemails.
Under cross-examination, Mr Walker denied his comments contained a threat of physical violence.
He said an email sent to City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder councillors saying he had “threatened” Mr Coulston and “will carry it out if necessary” — which was subsequently leaked to local media — and both voicemails referred to taking legal action for defamation rather than threats of physical violence. Mr Walker said Mr Coulston’s comment about his son was “designed to hurt”.
“It was a matter that was particularly sensitive to my family and I took offence to it,” he said.
Mrs McKenzie presented evidence that Mr Coulston had a long history of criticising council figures through social media, which continued after the incident. She showed at least a dozen pages of Facebook posts made by Mr Coulston about Mr Walker since the exchange — some she described as defamatory and derogatory.
She rubbished a post by Mr Coulston suggesting Mr Walker was receiving financial assistance from the council for his legal fees and asked if he had proof Mr Walker had spent council-funded dollars on airfares. Mr Coulston could not provide evidence.
Mr Coulston remained defiant and said he wanted the community to know what a “stinking job” the chief executive was doing.
He accused Mr Walker of giving himself and councillors a pay rise and said Mr Walker had bumped his salary from $320,000 to $400,000.
Mr Coulston told the court he posted on Facebook about council figures like Mr Walker because he believed he had a duty to the community to expose an alleged “boys’ club” in the council.
Mrs McKenzie asked Mr Coulston if he was so concerned about what Mr Walker might do, why he continued to post about him.