19 Mar 2017

Court accepts man's evidence he didn't 'throw' animal into sea

3:31 pm on 19 March 2017

An Australian court has accepted a New Zealand man's evidence that he placed, rather than 'tossed', a quokka into the ocean off Rottnest Island.

Bevan Denis Hames, 37, who has a degree in zoology, was charged with animal cruelty after police claimed he 'tossed' the marsupial into the water during an outing with friends in March. The quokka was able to swim to shore from a jetty near the Rottnest Hotel.

Hames, who is from Christchurch, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and was granted a spent conviction and fined $2,000 during the appearance in a Perth court. A spent conviction is one that does not have to be declared.

A quokka on Rottnest Island.

A quokka on Rottnest Island. Photo: AFP

Bevan Hames accused of quokka throwing.

Bevan Hames. Photo: apolloprojects.co.nz

Hames' lawyer Nick Terry told the court his client had no idea he was doing anything wrong, and wanted to show his friends at the pub that quokkas were surprisingly good swimmers.

Mr Hames told his friends that quokkas swam in a similar way to doggy paddle.

Quokkas are found in abundance on Rottnest Island and are a major drawcard for tourists, but are no longer common on the mainland.

Mr Terry told the court his client apologised for and regretted the ill-treatment of the animal, and had a "proven passion for animals and animal welfare".

He described it as a "momentary lapse of judgment" that was not a malicious act.

Mr Hames rejected the allegation he threw the quokka into the water, saying he placed it into the water and it jumped from his hands.

The court accepted Mr Hames knew no harm would come to the animal by putting it in the water close to the shore, and it was not done in an "experimental" way.

Magistrate Steven Heath said there would have been a "substantially different outcome" for Mr Hames if the quokka had been hurled, as previously reported.

The court heard since the story went "viral", Hames and his colleagues had received threatening emails, and it had been devastating for his family.

Another man was fined after allegedly helping Hames catch the quokka.

The 38-year-old from Noosa Heads in Queensland was issued with a $200 Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) infringement notice and was evicted from the island.

* This story has been updated to reflect the outcome of the court case