Early shot costs Bendigo magistrate William Gibb

MAGISTRATE William Patterson Gibb got caught up in the excitement and killed a wood duck with a clean shot.

But a few minutes later the fun was all over. Gibb had fired too early and was quickly nabbed for the offence.

Gibb – a co-ordinating magistrate at Bendigo ­– had to immediately hand over his shotgun and also surrender the duck.

To make the day even worse, he hadn’t even known he had killed a duck when he opened fire at Williams Wetland in the Lower Ovens Regional Park near Bundalong on March 16.

Gibb fired his shotgun at 6.56am, but the duck season was not due to open until 7.20am.

Department of Primary Industries prosecutor Geoff Morsby told the court how Gibb was asked that morning what game birds he had shot.

“I didn’t think I got any, I shot at wood ducks,” he told in reply.

Then he was asked why he was shooting out of season.

“Suppose I had been hearing shots for a long time and couldn’t resist the temptation,” he said.

Yesterday he pleaded guilty in Wangaratta Court to one count of breaching Victoria’s Wildlife Act by hunting for wood ducks during a banned period.

Gibb, who recently announced he was retiring from the bench, could have faced a fine of up to $3300.Instead, NSW magistrate Ian Guy — brought in specially to preside over the matter — placed Gibb on a six-month good behaviour bond, without conviction.

He must pay $500 to the court fund and pay $87.98 in costs.

Mr Guy ordered that the wood duck that Gibb shot be forfeited, though agreed with a submission from defence barrister Tim Bourke that his gun be returned.

“I accept that the defendant is genuinely contrite and regrets his actions,” he said.

Mr Guy said while the penalty needed to deter other hunters from doing the wrong thing, Gibb’s offending had been at the lower end of the scale.

He took into account Gibb’s early guilty plea, his unblemished record and good character, along with the service he had made to the community over many years.

At no time during yesterday’s brief hearing was it mentioned that Gibb was a magistrate.

The 65-year-old’s case was heard before a start was made on the general court list, for which the foyer was packed with people.

Mr Bourke said Gibb had been a shooting club member for more than 30 years, but had decided to give up duck hunting. “He is a man of good character,” he said. 

Mr Bourke said he had known Gibb both personally and professionally for about 

25 years.

Police and department officers were conducting a campaign at the wetlands as there had been a problem with hunters shooting early at the start of last year’s duck season.

Mr Morsby said a department officer heard a gunshot coming from Gibb’s direction. “At 6.57am the accused was observed by the authorised officer lifting his firearm and firing at a maned, or wood, duck as it flew over his head,” Mr Morsby said. 

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