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Taxi drivers accused of assaulting Frankston MP Geoff Shaw to contest charges

Date

Adam Cooper

MP Geoff Shaw

MP Geoff Shaw Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

A barrister representing four taxi drivers accused of assaulting balance-of-power MP Geoff Shaw has indicated in court that the cabbies will contest the charges against them.

The drivers could have resolved their cases on Tuesday, as a magistrate said the matter could proceed and a police prosecutor confirmed that if the cabbies pleaded guilty they would be put on a diversion program that allows first-time offenders to avoid criminal convictions.

But barrister Morgan McLay, representing the drivers, told Melbourne Magistrates Court his clients wanted to adjourn their hearing so they could see more evidence against them.

Mr McLay called on magistrate John Doherty to grant the defence access to documents related to the case from a police database and to have the prosecution forward any email correspondence between officers and between police and civilians, including MPs.

Mr Doherty granted the barrister access to the database documents, but refused the other requests. He told Mr McLay the matter was not complicated and could be resolved on Tuesday.

Mr McLay conceded the incident was trivial but said his clients were treating it seriously. He indicated they wanted to contest the charges.

‘‘It may he a trivial matter ... but it’s the prosecution that has brought it to court and if the prosecution has brought the charges then they (the drivers) should have a look at the evidence against them,’’ he said.

Taxi drivers John Zammit, Konstantinos Mandikos, Gianni Campobassi and Natalia Potapova are accused of assaulting Mr Shaw while he was walking up the steps of Parliament House on October 15 last year.

The cabbies and the Frankston MP were involved in a scuffle, during which punches were thrown and Mr Zammit suffered a cut to the cheek. The altercation came amid a larger protest by drivers angry at changes to taxi laws.

Mr Zammit, 75, is charged with five counts of assault, Mr Mandikos, 74, faces four charges, Ms Potapova, 46, is charged with two counts and Mr Campobassi, 52, faces two counts of assault and one of using insulting words in public.

Senior Constable Kasey Hadden, prosecuting, told the court the group had tried to engage with Mr Shaw and then pursued the MP up the steps when he chose not to.

Senior Constable Hadden said Mr Shaw felt someone grab at his arm and someone else grab at his foot. The court heard Mr Shaw kicked out to have the grip released and threw a punch in self-defence.

The drivers had their bail extended and are due to return to court on July 8.

The court proceedings came a day after it was revealed that former Speaker Ken Smith released video footage of the altercation between Mr Shaw and the drivers.

The incident led to a review of a security at Parliament House.

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