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Woman tells court senator said she would not win case because of his ‘affiliation’

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Curtis Richardson (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An elderly woman broke down in tears yesterday as she told a court of the stress caused by a senator’s repeated refusal to hand over $19,000 in unpaid rent.

Margaret Harvey, who is in her 70s, told the Supreme Court that Curtis Richardson, a Progressive Labour Party member of the Upper House and the junior national security minister, had warned her that his “affiliation” would mean she would not win in legal proceedings.

Ms Harvey, who had been Mr Richardson’s landlady, said he had shown her “rudeness and disrespect”.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams highlighted how “visibly upset” the senior citizen appeared as she gave evidence.

Ms Harvey told the court of the distress the legal proceedings had caused her.

She said: “Mr Richardson threatened to take a restraining order against me for coming on my property – an injunction.

“And then he said take me to court, we are going to lose anyway … because the court will be on his side because of his affiliation.

“All he can say when we go to court is ‘oh, I’ve got no money, somebody’s paying my electrical bill, somebody is feeding me, somebody is giving me money for groceries’.

“Mr Richardson has been working as a taxi driver – all last week we saw him about in a taxi.“

Mr Richardson, also the junior transport minister and a taxi driver, said he did not contest he owed $19,023 in arrears and offered to pay $100 a month to clear the debt.

Magistrate’s Court earlier ruled that Mr Richardson should pay $325 a month, but the Harvey family said that Mr Richardson had paid only $1,400 since September 2020 and that Financial Assistance had paid $1,161 a month for him for three months that year.

Mr Richardson asked for a Supreme Court hearing to discuss means-test orders.

The hearing was part of a legal dispute over the arrears that started in 2020.

Margot Harvey, Ms Harvey’s daughter, who represented her mother in court, said a warrant for Mr Richardson’s arrest was issued in Magistrate’s Court on December 3 last year after he failed to attend a hearing.

But Mr Richardson said he was told he did not need to show up because he had appealed to the Supreme Court.

He added: “I was told that the December 3 Magistrate’s Court date would be set aside because I filed an appeal for the Supreme Court.”

David Burt, the Premier, appointed Mr Richardson to the Senate in 2020 after he was an unsuccessful in a bid for a House of Assembly seat in that year’s General Election.

Mr Richardson, who is paid more than $30,000 a year for sitting in the Senate, was appointed by Mr Burt as the Upper House national security spokesman, a portfolio that covers law and order.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams asked Mr Richardson how much he could pay to put towards the debt.

Mr Richardson told her: “There has been a silver lining with my situation, I would say I would be able to pay $50 a month until the industry picked up a little bit more – I mean $100 a month.”

He added: “I have done nothing but communicate with the courts.”

Mrs Justice Subair Williams asked Margot Harvey, a doctor, when the order was made for the $325 a month payment.

Dr Harvey said an order was made “on November 2, 2021, under Magistrate Cassidy, that was the date set for the means test”.

She added: “Magistrate Cassidy asked Mr Richardson to provide current information because his last … date for means testing was in 2020 – December – and she said ‘something must have changed from December 2020 to November 2, 2021’.

“She asked him if he had any updated documents, of receipts, invoices of anything that might have changed and he said only a few things have changed.”

Margot Harvey, who represented her mother Margaret in a court battle with a senator over unpaid rent (Photograph submitted)

Dr Harvey also told the court a warrant for Mr Richardson’s arrest had been issued.

She said: “So she (the magistrate) reset the means test for December 3, and that’s when he did not show up and that’s when the warrant for his arrest was issued with the proviso that he paid $325 per month.

“She issued the warrant for his arrest because he didn’t show up and set the $325 for the previous ten months that he had not paid and an order for arrest to be issued if he didn’t pay that amount within seven days – $3,250, ten months.”

Dr Harvey added: “I would just like to say, at $325 a month, it will take him four years and 11 months to pay off the $19,023 and 34 cents that he owes.”

She said: “In January 2021, we were in court and he confirmed to Magistrate Cassidy that he had a $3,000 cheque that he was going to submit to pay towards his debt and we never received that cheque.

“We checked and followed-up a couple of months later, three months later, and we were told the cheque was cancelled.”

Mr Richardson said he needed to have an assessment of his means for the case to be dealt with.

Dr Harvey asked Mrs Justice Subair Williams if what she referred to as the arrest warrant for Mr Richardson was still in force.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “I don’t find myself inclined to interfere with a warrant that’s, number one, not in front of me, and number two would certainly be addressed upon you reappearing before the magistrate.”

Curtis Richardson is sworn in as a Senate member in 2020 (File photograph)

She said she did not want a response from Mr Richardson to Ms Harvey’s evidence and that she was dealing with a procedural matter only.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams ruled that the case was not one for the Supreme Court and dismissed the appeal by Mr Richardson.

She referred the case back to Magistrate’s Court for an assessment of Mr Richardson’s means.

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