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St Basil’s aged care managers argue evidence could be ‘dress rehearsal’ for criminal case

Managers of a Melbourne aged care home where 50 residents died during a Covid-19 outbreak have argued against giving evidence as it would lead to a ‘dress rehearsal’ for criminal charges, a court has been told.

Former chairman of St Basil’s Kon Kontis and facility manager Vicky Kos were ordered to give evidence at the coronial inquest over their handling of the outbreak in July 2020.

During the outbreak at the Fawkner facility, located in Melbourne’s north, 45 residents died with Covid-19 while another five died as a result of neglect including dehydration.

St Basil’s aged care managers argue evidence could be ‘dress rehearsal’ for criminal case
Camera IconKon Kontis, former director of St Basil’s Home for the Aged is arguing he shouldn’t be compelled to give evidence at a coronial inquest. NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw Credit: News Corp Australia

But the former managers are fighting to reverse the decision in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

At a hearing on Wednesday, their barrister Ian Hill QC said there was a WorkSafe investigation on foot and compelling the former managers to give evidence would be a “template” for the regulator.

“Should the plaintiffs be compelled to give evidence as the coroner ruled, it would be a dress rehearsal in respect to any prosecution for charges against them under the Occupational Health and Safety Act,” Mr Hill told the court.

He said representatives for the regulator were in court during the inquest and “others were in effect doing their work”.

ST BASILS INQUEST
Camera IconVicky Kos is also fighting the decision compelling her to give evidence at the inquest. NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw Credit: News Corp Australia

The barrister argued the coroner’s decision was affected by bias because he allowed family members to give evidence about their loved ones before he decided whether the managers would be forced to testify.

The inquest was probing why the care home didn’t have a better Covid-19 plan in place, why staff were ordered out of the home and the role the Commonwealth played in handling the situation.

No criminal charges have been laid.

Only 49 people out of the more than 230 people who lived and worked at the facility did not get the virus, the inquest was told last year.

The hearing continues in front of Justice Stephen O’Meara.

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