by Shannon Deery
September 23, 2015

Dodgy barrister loses appeal to stop Bendigo mosque – helped by a suspected judge

Protesters desperate to stop development of the mosque took their fight to the Court of Appeal today seeking a stay of orders by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal permitting its construction.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren and Justice Joseph Santamaria dismissed the application after deliberating for just minutes.

Barrister Marcel White acted on behalf of the anti-mosque protesters.

But the fight will continue with the protesters set to seek leave to appeal the VCAT decision in November.

Lawyers for the mosque’s developers told the court today they were months away from starting work on its construction.

Marcel White, for the protesters, sought an injunction banning any development, after conceding that his original application to stay the VCAT orders was not appropriate.

He said the permits for the mosque were issued on the day VCAT published its reasons, meaning in effect there was no feasible way for protesters to appeal the move.

Barrister Marcel White

Barrister Marcell WhiteMr White, who conceded he wasn’t fully across the application prepared by his solicitors, said two people were behind the Supreme Court action, 16 fewer than were involved in the VCAT proceeding.

In a bizarre admission Mr White said the application appeared to comprise an “alphabet soup of appeal points”.

But he said he really wanted to focus on just two points.

The case for the protesters got off to a rocky start with an embarrassed Mr White forced to apologise to the state’s most senior judge for appearing in court “unrobed”.

“I have no better excuse than the dog ate my robes,” he told Chief Justice Warren.

After excusing him for appearing without the customary black barrister’s robe and wig, Chief Justice Warren quizzed Mr White at length saying parts of his written submissions were “embarrassing”

Justice Santamaria questioned whether the application had been copied from elsewhere saying much of it made no sense.

Mr White conceded that it appeared that his instructing solicitors had seemingly thrown everything including the kitchen sink into the appeal application.

“That concession you’ve just made is one I take very seriously,” Justice Santamaria said.

“I understand you to concede these grounds reflect someone throwing the kitchen sink, as it were, at the court. That is not satisfactory.”

VCAT upheld a decision by the City of Greater Bendigo to develop the mosque in 2014.

Groups supporting and opposing the mosque clashed in Bendigo in August and another street protest is planned in October.

About a dozen Protective Services Officers were at court for today’s hearing.