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A Sydney anti-lockdown protester accused of punching a police horse has been released on bail after video footage of the incident emerged.
Kristian Pulkownik was forced to spend three weeks in detention before a magistrate released him on strict bail conditions.
The 33-year-old has vowed to fight some of the charges which include animal cruelty and fighting.
While applying for bail at the central local court, the magistrate was told that Mr Pulkownik was a “caring animal lover” who defended himself against the horse.
The 33-year-old, who was photographed and filmed at the protest, has been charged with committing an act of animal cruelty, fighting, joining an unlawful assembly and failing to obey instructions from the police.
On a previous occasion, magistrate Mark Richardson had refused to hear a request for release because Mr Pulkownik was being kept in solitary confinement and could not appear in court from his prison cell. Indeed, he had refused to submit to a COVID-19 test since his arrest during the anti-lockdown protest.
His lawyer at the time complained that it made it “impossible” to speak to the client.
However, Magistrate Richardson said he had no power to order corrections to provide access.
Accused refuses COVID test in custody
Mr. Pulkownik refused to take a COVID-19 test in prison for medical reasons.
His bail solicitor said: “My instructions are because of his asthma he would have an adverse reaction to the nasal swab test. There is a medical reason for his denial, which he is very firm on. .”
The Court heard that Mr Pulkownik had developed a lung infection after being denied his asthma medication. They suggested this was a question in favor of granting bail, as his ability to obtain legal advice would be affected by his isolation.
However, Magistrate Clare Farnan objected, saying it was a matter “in the hands of your client…The authorities have a duty of care when it comes to the health of others”.
Speaking to the media, his criminal lawyer raised concerns about the way Mr Pulkownik was treated in custody, saying: “They actually said if you take the test we’ll give you your medicine. “
Prior to his first court appearance, his lawyers had only been able to speak to him once.
“I had a five minute quick call yesterday, but that’s not enough time to take instructions and prepare for a case…five, seven minutes is not enough time…I I’m sure we have the technology out there these days to get a phone, even if it’s in a plastic bag.”
They also expressed concern that justice was compromised because of the pandemic.
“Essentially, they give a 14-day pass to lock people up and put them in solitary confinement in circumstances where they may not even have a criminal history that would justify such conduct…It’s a sad day when we have to do this in Australia.”
Magistrate Farnan received five character references on the bail application. She noted that some of the documents presented suggested that the defendant was a “caring animal lover”.
Mr Pulkownik’s bail conditions include that he must live with his mother, he must not enter the CBD except for approved reasons and he must comply with health orders.
“These are difficult times in Sydney for everyone. I urge you to understand the health orders, to comply with the health orders, they are in everyone’s interest and they are in your interest as well.”
Accused pleads not guilty to criminal charges
The court played two videos of the incident before Mr Pulkownik’s criminal lawyers claimed he was defending himself against the police horse which had been ‘ridden towards him’.
“A very consistent interpretation of what we see is that the defendant, rather than hitting the horse, was pushing it back in self-defence,” he said.
His criminal defense attorney told the court the 33-year-old would plead not guilty to three of the four counts.
Regarding the animal cruelty charge, Mr Pulkownik said: ‘I don’t abuse animals…I’ve rescued animals from the RSPCA all my life.’
An anti-lockdown protester speaks to the media
Upon his release from Parklea Correctional Centre, Mr Pulkownik told the media he wished the incident never happened. However, he maintained that the photograph did not tell the whole story.
“I’d rather everyone look at the entire CCTV, all the footage…and make their own guesses. It’s really unfortunate that this happened and my sincere apologies.”
His lawyer also told reporters: “He doesn’t have a significant history of violence. He’s actually an animal lover; he’s a very sweet, kind guy. I was amazed at how we we’ve come to this point.”
Section 93C of Misdemeanors Act 1900 (NSW) defines Affray as a person using or threatening to use unlawful violence against another person which causes fear of a person of “reasonable firmness” present at the scene for their personal safety.
Affray is a “Table 1” offense under the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (New South Wales). As such, it is finalized by the local court unless you or the Crown choose to deal with it in the district court.
It is rare for an Affray charge to be heard in district court unless associated serious charges are heard in district court.
Affray is a type of assault charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if your case is heard in district court. In the local court, the maximum penalty for a single offense is 2 years imprisonment.
Although it is impossible to predict the exact penalty of brawl you will receive, we can provide a range of likely penalties. Analyzing 4,044 community court cases over the past 5 years, only 12% of cases received no convictions for Affray. The remaining offenders were all convicted, and 13% of offenders were sentenced to full-time imprisonment.
Obviously, an Affray accusation is extremely serious. More people are sentenced to prison terms than they are returned under Article 10. That’s why it’s important that you speak to one of our highly experienced criminal defense attorneys for the charges. fight in order to obtain the best possible result.
The following defense may apply:
- Self-defense: In this case, you will argue that any violence you used was not “unlawful”. This defense includes if you were defending another person
- Accident: your actions were accidental. You did not intend to assault anyone and you could not foresee that your actions would constitute unlawful violence
- Identification: The police cannot identify you as the perpetrator of the fight
- Constraint: That you were forced to commit the offense
- Need: your actions were necessary in the circumstances
It is important to speak to experienced lawyers at Affray about all of the potential defenses you have.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.