Big Rob at Byron Bay Court.
Big Rob at Byron Bay Court. Hamish Broome

Big Rob's conduct 'crossed a line', court hears

Update 5.24pm: LISMORE Mayor Isaac Smith has given evidence in a courtroom about how Lismore identity Big Rob's "derogatory" behaviour towards him "crossed a line" when he mentioned his family in a Facebook post.

Today's court hearing was adjourned until May 11 mid way through a cross examination of Cr Smith's evidence by Big Rob's solicitor.

Spending almost two hours in the witness box in Byron Local Court, Cr Smith said his relationship with Mr Rob took a turn for the worse when he confronted him in about 2012 about "attacking people on Facebook".

"I believed from that point on he had a predetermined view on me… he started referring to me in derogatory terms… it was more aggressive, less constructive…" Cr Smith said.

He said Mr Rob's behaviour became "more serious" after he was elected mayor in late 2016.

In late January, Mr Rob posted a picture of the mayoral sedan in the street outside Cr Smith's home and mentioned his daughter.

The photo was taken from across the road from his home with comments suggesting it was inappropriate for him to be using the ratepayer funded mayoral vehicle for personal reasons.

The court heard Rob controlled "a number of Facebook pages" and it was shared across several of them.

"Involving family was a line that I don't think had ever been crossed before," Cr Smith said, saying it "rang alarm bells"

"It was very distressing to my wife, my daughter, and myself."

Cr Smith said he lodged an application for an apprehended personal violence order two days later on January 30 last year at the Lismore Court House.

After that, he said Mr Rob "went to my house and then livestreamed a video from my house to Facebook that lasted close to half an hour."

An interim Apprehended Personal Violence Order was granted by the court in March last year.

Cr Smith said he was then "devastated" to see a post by Mr Rob attacking him following the Lismore flood, which then became the subject of the alleged AVO breach.

He said "at no point does it discuss my role at council… it was purely a personal attack, calling me a liar, and attacking the court for putting an interim AVO in place."

He said the post also blamed him for somehow making the flood worse because Big Rob's widely used Facebook information pages were taken down following the granting of the interim AVO.

"(Two days) after Lismore's most devastating flood in history to say that I was somehow responsible for the hurt caused in Lismore… that's just pure intimidation."

Asked whether it was legitimate for Mr Rob to include his phone number in the post, Cr Smith replied: "The issue is that he hates me, how is that an issue that someone should contact me about?"

The court heard the post also featured a doctored picture of the mayor wearing a t-shirt which said "Mayor of ice town". The actual t-shirt, given to him by former mayor Jenny Dowell, said "mayor of awesome town".

In cross examining Cr Smith, Big Rob's solicitor Vince Boss characterised Mr Rob as a politically motivated.

He asked the mayor whether Rob was "politically active in relation to the community interests" and attended council meetings "lobbying for change".

"You've understood that when you've entered the world of politics there can often be… sledging between parties," he said.

He said Big Rob "played a significant role in coordinating community interests" in relation to a variety of issues.
"He's got the largest following on Facebook (in) the region," Mr Boss said.

Mr Boss suggested that when the mayor originally lodged the AVO application he wanted all reference to him removed and any further mention of his name banned.

"The whole nature of this AVO really is to try and gag (Rob) from making any comment about you at all," Mr Boss said.

The hearing before Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy was adjourned and will resume in Byron Local Court on May 11.
 

 

 

Original story 1.14pm: LISMORE personality Big Rob "waged an ongoing campaign of harassment" against Lismore mayor Isaac Smith and had "no intention" of respecting an interim apprehended violence order made against him, a court has heard.

Mr Rob is facing a court hearing today in Byron Bay Local Court over two Facebook posts he made in in April last year which allegedly breached an interim AVO between him and Mayor Smith.

In a Facebook post on April 4, the former kebab shop owner turned social media personality and law student criticised the mayor, accusing him of lying under oath.

He also published his mobile phone number, which was at the time listed on the Lismore City Council website.

The court heard that Cr Smith felt harassed and intimidated by the posts, which were widely shared.

This morning police prosecutor Sgt Nathan Lockett told the court that Mr Rob "did not seem to fully grasp the seriousness of the (interim) AVO" and was instead using it "as a means of grandstanding and raising his own public profile".

In allowing some of the contested statement to be tendered as evidence, Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy said he accepted that Mr Rob had a "particular level of fixation and/or ill will" toward Cr Smith if not necessarily an "aggressive mentality".

Mr Rob's solicitor Vince Boss said there were "background issues" in the matter that needed to be put into perspective.

He said Mr Rob was "entitled to be a critic of Mr Smith", citing a High Court ruling which accepted that "invective" against politicians was part and parcel of Australian public discourse.

"If you're in that political arena you are opening yourself up to criticism (from the public)," he said.

He characterised his client as a "political rival" of Cr Smith's, and said Mr Rob's conduct as "part and parcel of every day conduct between rivals in the political scheme".

A recorded police interview with Mr Rob made on April 7 last year was played during the hearing.

In it Mr Rob appeared incredulous about being charged over the matter, accusing police of being "manipulated by the mayor of Lismore".

He said he was unconcerned about his Facebook posts because there was nothing in them which he believed breached the AVO.

But a police officer called to the witness box said that Mr Rob was "enticing people to harass" the mayor in the posts.

The interim AVO against Mr Rob was made on March 9 last year after Mr Rob allegedly took a photo of the ratepayer funded mayoral vehicle parked outside the Smith family's home.

The hearing continues.