May 19, 2021
The former campaign manager for South Burnett councillor Scott Henschen has been granted bail with strict conditions after an hour-long hearing in Murgon Magistrates Court.
Judith Ann Schulz, 57, from Tingoora, was charged on Tuesday with two counts of extortion (demand with intent to gain benefit with threat of detriment) and one count of unlawful stalking.
The alleged victim is Cr Henschen.
Ms Schulz had been refused police bail and spent Tuesday night in custody.
On Wednesday afternoon, solicitor Jay Rose, for Schulz, applied for bail on behalf of her client.
Ms Schulz was not present in the courtroom and the application was dealt with via telephone.
Bail was opposed by police prosecutor Sgt Pepe Gangemi, who presented the court with a 21-page document and a six-page affidavit in support of his position.
“Ms Schulz has embarked on a series of offending where she has used different names and a relentless style of offending fixated on this particular victim,” Sgt Gangemi alleged.
He said normal bail conditions may not curb this behaviour, which he described as “relentless” and which he claimed had taken a toll on the alleged victim.
Sgt Gangemi said Ms Schulz had gained employment at a property more than 100km from Alice Springs which could leave her free to continue her “tirade of stalking-style offending”.
“Whilst conditions could be imposed, how would they be enforced?” he said.
“If she goes into the Territory, she will basically be free to engage in any conduct … it’s not overly difficult to create false identities on social media.”
However, Ms Rose argued Ms Schulz had no convictions for failing to appear for court and had strong links to Queensland.
“She has two children, both of whom reside in Queensland … her mother resides in Murgon; her closest associate is her 85-year-old cousin who is her neighbour at Tingoora,” she said.
She said her client owned her own home outright in Tingoora where she has lived since 2017.
Ms Rose said Ms Schulz had a six-month employment contract as a cook at Ambalindum Station in the Northern Territory but would have to return to Queensland because she had a number of litigation matters ongoing with Cr Henschen.
“She needs to come back for a District Court appeal, and also some civil litigation and some other matters that are outstanding,” Ms Rose said.
These included an appeal against a decision by South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto to clear Cr Henschen of inappropriate behaviour.
“The police can’t have it both ways; they can’t say she is a stalker and then say she can’t go out of the State … that gives the alleged victim more protection if she is out of the State working on a remote cattle property, keeping occupied as a cook.”
Ms Rose said there was also no evidence before the court that any of the alleged “fake profiles” were owned or operated by Ms Schulz, and it was not illegal to have a VPN (virtual private network).
Ms Rose alleged the dispute arose with Cr Henschen after Ms Schulz’s access to her credit cards was terminated after web accounts – used during the campaign – were “hacked”.
“That was the cause of a substantial complaint to Council. The matter was dismissed only on the basis that it was a civil matter … the subject of civil litigation between the parties,” she said.
Ms Rose also said after a significant dispute was raised with ICANN, Ms Schulz was proven to be the owner of a disputed website domain name.
“From that, a police report was made and a complaint to Council … they were both determined to be civil matters, which is what Ms Schulz has pursued civilly,” she said.
Ms Schulz had also alleged she had been assaulted by the councillor, had been “ambushed” by friends of Cr Henschen near the windfarm, incurred expenses for which she had not been reimbursed, had worked for seven weeks unpaid, and had a website “stolen”. She was seeking recourse “through lawful channels”.
Mr Rose also said she had been instructed that police had not investigated the alleged ambush; Ms Schulz has lodged a complaint about this with the Police Minister.
Sgt Gangemi said every complaint Ms Schulz had made had been dismissed, and there had been nothing for the police to do in regards to the assault allegation.
The affidavit opposing bail asserted all complaints had been made without foundation.
Sgt Gangemi asked how could the Court be satisfied that any ordinary bail conditions imposed would be adhered to by “someone with such self-righteous indignation”.
“When a decision is made that she’s not happy with, it’s appeal, appeal, appeal,” he said.
He said the police case against Ms Schulz was “very high”.
Ms Rose disputed this, saying Ms Schulz would not be pleading guilty to any of the offences and would be taking them to trial.
She said Ms Schulz had done nothing since November 2020 except cc’ing Cr Henschen into an email which disputed an allegation there had been a romantic relationship.
If Ms Schulz were granted bail, she could prepare her defence; engage extra legal representatives; and continue working and maintaining her property.
Magistrate Andrew Sinclair said Ms Schulz had displayed “an excessive interest” in the matters she was pursuing in Queensland so it was extremely unlikely she would not return to pursue those interests.
He said the affidavit listed behaviour which could be construed as stalking, including entering a place where Cr Henschen lived on multiple occasions without his permission.
However, other allegations were not as straightforward, including some Facebook posts that could potentially be part of a genuine political dispute.
“I can’t say that from the bail affidavit the case is overwhelmingly strong (but) at least prima facie it shows behaviour that certainly could fall into (stalking),” Magistrate Sinclair said.
Magistrate Sinclair granted bail on condition Ms Schulz:
- Live at Tingoora or Ambalindum Station in the NT, unless otherwise agreed with Murgon police;
- Report weekly to Murgon police, by phone if living in the NT;
- Not contact or approach Cr Henschen, seven other named people or any police witness;
- Not go within 50m of Cr Henschen or five kilometres of Cr Henschen’s property at Ironpot;
- Not post, or cause to be posted, on social media any matter in relation to Cr Henschen, the South Burnett Regional Council or any witness in relation to this matter;
- Not use a VPN or any encrypted apps;
- Disclose to Murgon CIB all social media and email accounts.
The hearing was adjourned to August 16 for committal mention.