A farmer and police officers have accused each other of lying during a fiery court hearing over an allegation shots were fired at rabbits from a public road.
Geoff Cheshire, 82, was eventually found guilty of using a firearm in a public place, at a North Wangaratta property, but not before protesting that “I’m not that silly” and would not put nearby residents in danger.
Neville Floyd gave evidence in Wangaratta Magistrates’ Court last week that he both heard and saw Cheshire fire a rifle while leaning over his car from Frasers Lane at about 6pm on October 17, 2016.
“I saw a ute with a man leaning out of the the back … there were several shots fired,” he said.
“We just couldn’t believe someone was shooting from a public road.”
Cheshire claimed he only looked through the scope of the rifle when on the public road then drove up the driveway into the property before starting to shoot rabbits, which would have been legal.
He and Sergeant Paul Purcell recounted very different versions of what occurred when they spoke that evening.
Sergeant Purcell told the court he stopped Cheshire before the farmer could drive away in his ute and seized the .22 calibre rifle lying in the tray.
He said the gun was loaded with one round of ammunition and another two rounds were inserted in a magazine.
Cheshire claimed the gun was not loaded at the time.
“I had a cattle dog and the cattle dog protects most things in the vehicle. When (Sergeant Purcell) got up there, it was bearing its teeth,” he said.
He accused Sergeant Purcell of lying in his evidence and said the officer did not check the rifle for ammunition – a claim rejected by magistrate Stella Stuthridge.
“I have some concerns about Mr Cheshire’s functioning memory,” she said.
Sergeant Purcell denied there was a dog in the ute.
“Either you’re lying or I’m lying, and I’m not lying,” he said to Cheshire in court.
“I don’t know why someone would make something like that up.”
Police also pointed to an interview conducted on the day, where Cheshire admitted “I fired a couple of shots from the road”, but he told the court he only said that because he had been rattled by Sergeant Purcell’s questions and meant he shot from the driveway.
Ms Stuthridge found him guilty and placed him on a 12-month good behaviour bond with the condition he complete a firearm safety course.