A PRECEDENT Victorian Supreme Court judgment remains valid and could pose a problem long term for the government.
Justice Bill Gillard in 2001 awarded former Thougla farmer Ron Stockwell $108,000 after he sued over stock losses caused by wild dogs.
Justice Gillard found in favour of Mr Stockwell, 58, who sued the state for $1.3 million in compensation.
The state was ordered to pay Mr Stockwell’s costs estimated at more than $600,000, apart from the compensation.
Justice Gillard’s 142-page judgment came after a trial that lasted many weeks.
He said Mr Stockwell had no record of the number of sheep killed, what sort and whether they were in lamb.
There was evidence during the trial that 200 were killed on a night in 1983 and about 80 on another occasion.
It was suggested Mr Stockwell’s record of wool losses was woefully inadequate.
But Justice Gillard said the government, through its employees in the then Natural Resources and Environment Department, allowed a wild dog nuisance to develop and failed to take appropriate action to eradicate it.
The government in 1983 had set aside Crown land next to Mr Stockwell’s farm so it could be left in its natural state.
Departmental employees believed mistakenly that no one should go there, effectively creating a wild dog haven for breeding.
The staff knew the wild dogs were causing a nuisance, had the authority to do something but didn’t.
Mr Stockwell wasn’t allowed to enter the land to trap and bait wild dogs, though admitted going in to poison dogs — and was told any repeat could result in prosecution and a $100,000 fine.
Mr Stockwell sold most of his farm in 1990, but in the 1980s had lost many sheep.
He was 59 when he died in 2003 and his family said the court action had taken its toll on his health.