Greyhound trainer sentenced for 'barbaric' baiting
IN A surprise twist greyhound trainer Mark Blackwood changed his plea from not guilty to guilty for a live baiting offence.
He faced a Crown prosecution charge alleging he had taken part in serious animal cruelty at the 16ha rural property of disgraced trainer Tom Noble on Wotan Road, Churchable, on October 8, 2014.
Four years after the offence, Blackwood, 46, from Coominya, stood trial in Ipswich District Court denying he had taken part with intent to inflict severe pain and suffering and unlawfully killing an animal.
The jury heard evidence from two witnesses, then watched a 45-minute, secretly recorded video of what took place on the morning of October 8, 2014 at the property north of Gatton.
A man, said to be Blackwood, is heard laughing about a dead piglet biting.
The covert footage shows greyhounds chasing after a live piglet that is tied to a mechanical lure-arm.
It is dead at the end of the dog trialling after being chased by 18 greyhounds.
Blackwood's change of plea to guilty was made soon after. The jury panel was dismissed by Judge Dennis Lynch QC.
It meant one Crown witness, Blackwood's former wife, was not called to the stand to give evidence against him.
Witness Mark Meaden, a freelance investigator, told the court he'd hidden three cameras at the property including one dug-in under concrete beneath the control tower.
"I went there to get evidence of animal cruelty," Mr Meaden said.
"Yes it captured data successfully. It was covert so we hadn't sought permission."
Second witness, Detective Sergeant Matt Bauer, said police began an investigation in February 2015 after film footage (Meaden's) was aired on the ABC Four Corners program about the illegal use of live baits in the greyhound industry.
He said police were contacted by Blackwood's former wife after she recognised his voice on the Four Corners program.
She was wired with a recording device when she met with Blackwood.
At the trial opening Crown prosecutor Noel Needham told the jury Tom Noble was paid money for greyhound training by the dog owners.
He said Blackwood would not be seen on the footage but his voice would be heard making a joke about the dead piglet.
"I'd laugh if it bit you Tony," the alleged voice of Blackwood said.
Mr Needham said Blackwood went to assist in the training of a dog named Max and owned by his step-son Brodie Scott.
"Tanya Scott, Brodie's mother, recognised his voice and she became involved in the investigation," he said.
Following his guilty plea Blackwood was sentenced by Judge Lynch.
In the Crown submission on penalty, Mr Needham said Blackwood went to the track with the knowledge live baiting might occur.
Although he did not handle the dogs, or take part in the live baiting, his presence at the track aided the offence by way of encouragement.
Defence barrister Scott Neaves said Blackwood spent his teenage years in Gladstone and later trained greyhounds in Cessnock, NSW.
He returned to Queensland and worked in childcare centres at Bracken Ridge and Karana Downs, and drove buses.
Mr Neaves submitted that Blackwood's involvement was simply being party to the offence.
Judge Lynch said Blackwood was there to trial a dog, and it was trialled on live bait.
"He could have left," Judge Lynch said.
Mr Neaves said Brodie Scott pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty, and was fined $1500 with no conviction recorded.
Mr Neaves sought that no conviction be recorded against Blackwood as it would impact on his work opportunities.
Blackwood's registration as a dog trainer has been suspended until his court matter was finalised.
Judge Lynch said it was Tom Noble who secured the live piglet to the lure but Blackwood went to the track knowing dogs could be trained with live lures.
He said it was a serious offence in which severe pain and suffering was inflicted on a piglet that ultimately was killed.
"It is barbaric and the practice should not be tolerated in a civilised society," Judge Lynch said. "People who engage in this in the future should expect significant penalty."
Blackwood was convicted and fined $3000. A conviction was recorded.