A PERSON acting for Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher pressured a supermarket to drop shoplifting and assault charges against her, a court has heard.
Fisher, 48, appeared in the Adelaide Magistrate's Court this morning charged with theft and assault during an alleged incident at Frewville Foodland last December.
Opening the trial, police prosecutor Sergeant Brendon Beh said Senator Fisher allegedly left the store after only paying $7.50 for $92 worth of groceries. It was alleged she assaulted a store security guard, Cathryn Groot, who confronted her in the supermarket's car park after she was questioned inside the store by management. Senator Fisher allegedly pushed Ms Groot away and shut the driver's door of her car on Ms Groot's arm several times.
Sgt Beh told the court Senator Fisher told police called to the supermarket that she realised she did not have enough money to pay for all the goods so she paid for some and got into her car to get more money. Senator Fisher also told the police she did not let Foodland staff know what she was doing when she went to the car. Later that night she went back to Foodland and paid for the items.
Sgt Beh told the court that Ms Groot was the prosecution's key eyewitness because CCTV footage of the incident had been erased and would not be tendered as evidence.
Sgt Beh said a representative for Senator Fisher attended the Foodland premises soon after the alleged incident and viewed the footage with the store manager. When police later asked for the footage their attempts were "frustrated" before they were told the vision no longer existed, he said.
"There was a reasonably timely request by police but they were unable to secure the CCTV footage which we know existed and we know was viewed by one or two members of the Chapley Group (which owns Frewville Foodland) and one person acting for Ms Fisher," Sgt Beh said.
``A person acting for Ms Fisher (subsequently) approached the Chapley Group and it was that approach that ultimately led to (them) not pursuing those two charges (shoplifting and assault)."
Sgt Beh said Ms Groot and the Chapley Group had filed documents with police two days after the alleged event stating they did not wish to proceed with the shoplifting and assault charges. He said Ms Groot had "always wanted to pursue the charges" but reluctantly filled out the documents "under instruction".
When Magistrate Kym Boxall asked Sgt Beh was suggesting that there was some attempt to affect the course of justice, he replied: "I wouldn't put it that highly".
The court heard no-one had been charged with a criminal offences in relation to this alleged conduct. Magistrate Kym Boxall ruled the evidence was inadmissable to the trial as it did not relate to the charges.
In her evidence, Ms Groot said she observed Fisher enter the store with a blue canvas personal trolley, collect items from the fruit and vegetable department and proceed through several other shelves of the store. Ms Groot said then Fisher stopped in an aisle and rearranged the items in the trolley, keeping some in her hands, seconds before proceeding to the checkout.
"She offered up some long-life milk and other items for payment and paid for them," Ms Groot said.
However, Ms Groot said Fisher then proceeded to leave the store without paying for the fruit and vegetables - including lychees, strawberries, blueberries, avocados and mushrooms - that remained in her trolley. She pursued Ms Fisher out to her car where she had put the trolley on the back seat and got into the driver's seat.
"I said `I'm a security officer for the supermarket you just left and you have some items you have not paid for. Will you please step out of the car so we can talk about it?'," Ms Groot said.
After following Ms Groot back into the security office of the store, with her trolley, Fisher soon became uncooperative. When asked to present her identification, Fisher allegedly replied "what if I refuse?" and appeared quite scared, said Ms Groot.
"She also said, "is there some other way out of this?, to which I said `no'."
Ms Groot said Fisher then tried to leave the supermarket after going to the bathroom and claiming she "needed fresh air". She made it to her vehicle where Ms Groot tried to stop her from leaving by standing between Fisher and the car but was pushed out of the way. There was then a jostle where Fisher slammed the driver-side door on Ms Groot's arm several times and pushed her again in the stomach.
"She was a little rough and she was saying `I can't do this, I can't do this'.
``Fisher said, `Is there no other way to resolve this?' I continued to say, `No'.''
"I was trying to calm her down. I was telling her the police were on their way and telling her to calm down and turn the car off."
The trial continues.