Posted on 07 Jun 2018
In a West Australian first, the trial into the 2014 Parkerville fires will be live streamed on the internet and accessible by the general public. The trial is due to commence on 16 July 2018 and is scheduled to run for 7 weeks.
It is understood to be the first time any trial has been live streamed in Western Australia.
Slater and Gordon – representing 189 residents whose homes and property were damaged in the blaze – applied for the trial to be publicly viewable in the interest of open justice.
The West Australian Supreme Court approved the application last week, ordering a live stream of the proceedings be made available to the public.
Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Rory Walsh said the live streaming would facilitate group members’ access to the Court’s hearings in relation to legal and factual issues which directly affected them.
“An unrestricted live-stream will allow the large number of people affected by this fire to follow the court proceedings, without having to travel to attend court if they are unable to,” Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said the ruling also recognises that the trial raises issues of broader public interest extending far beyond those impacted by the 2014 bushfire.
“It not only raises liability issues arising from this bushfire, but also squarely raises for determination by this Court, what responsibility Western Power has in relation to inspecting and maintaining power poles on private properties. Given there are over 100,000 privately owned poles across the Western Power Network, many of which are in areas of high bushfire risk, there is significant public interest in having this issue resolved.”
An independent report by energy regulator, EnergySafety, found the 2014 fire started when a wooden power pole, which had been damaged by termites and fungal rot, fell and ignited ground vegetation. A total of 57 homes were destroyed and many more were damaged.
The report found that six months prior to the fire, contractors engaged by Western Power – Thiess Services Pty Ltd - conducted works on the rotten pole, and inspected it, but failed to detect that it was extensively damaged by termites and fungal rot.
Mr Walsh said Western Power was entrusted with the responsibility for a significant portion of the state’s electricity network.
“In this case, Western Power and it’s contractor, did not do enough to protect the community and they should be held accountable for their devastating losses,” Mr Walsh said.