In June 2003 Senator Shayne Murphy got another letter from the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Lupo Prins, as a follow up to his queries on whether a Statute of Limitations prevented Tasmania Police from prosecuting any persons illegally bringing foxes into Tasmania.
The letter came after the then Minister for Police, David Llewellyn, assured the Tasmanian Parliament there were ongoing investigations following the posting of a $50,000 reward for information about fox importations.
The Assistant Commissioner was able to tell the Senator that there was “no evidence currently in possession of Tasmania Police to prove that any particular person had introduced foxes into this State.”
“At this stage [June 2003] Tasmania Police does not have sufficient evidence to prosecute any person with the importation of foxes into this State regardless of Statute of Limitations.”
Yet the Police Minister had told the Parliament: ” We’ve issued the $50,000 reward and there has been quite a big response from Crime Stoppers and all are being investigated.”
The Assistant Commissioner also told Senator Murphy that “the Statute of Limitations covering this particular matter have been increased from six months to five years. Tasmania Police will investigate additional information relating to the introduction of foxes into the State as it comes to hand.”
As it transpired there was no new evidence in the possession of Tasmania Police and the Statute of Limitations was no impediment to a prosecution.
Inexplicably Tasmania Police were subsequently directed by the Minister to desist in any further investigations into these matters and the Minister never corrected his misleading comments in Parliament.
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In a Budget Estimates Committee on 27 June 2006 Minister David Llewellyn was still telling members of Parliament that he knew foxes had been smuggled into Tasmania.
Mr LLEWELLYN - “Indeed, in 1998 when it first came to my attention that foxes may well be in this State through information and intelligence that was gathered, that hunters had actually gone to Victoria and brought back foxes……
Mr ROCKLIFF - There is no actual police evidence to suggest that though?
Mr LLEWELLYN - “No, I am just telling you the information that I had at hand, that at least three litters of juvenile foxes were distributed - one at Longford, one south of Oatlands and one in the St Helens area - I might add, later, confirmed by quite a spate of sightings in those particular regions of the State - so fairly well authenticated. I took pretty decisive action at that stage and I will continue to do that. We did have a police investigation. It could not conclude an outcome, but then you must realise that the police rely on hard evidence to make a conviction and, if they do not have that hard evidence, they cannot proceed. There was also the statute of limitations that was a problem at that stage.”
No-one in Tasmania Police nor in the Parks & Wildlife Service nor in DPIW could produce evidence to support Minister Llewellyn’s extraordinary claim. The statute of limitations was extended to five years and even with this in place and his $50,000 reward for information leading to a successful prosecution, no fox smuggler was identified. The only Tasmania Police investigation, based on Mr Llewellyn’s referred claims of fox smuggling & release was conducted in 2001. His referred Briefing Note to the Tasmania Police Fox Taskforce made detailed allegations against several Tasmanians; they were found to be baseless.
So why - 5 years later - was Minister Llewellyn continuing to claim that he had “information at hand that at least three litters of juvenile foxes were distributed - one at Longford, one south of Oatlands and one in the St Helens area”?