St Basil bosses Kon Kontis and Vicky Kos fight testifying order

Officials at a Melbourne aged care home where 50 residents died in a devastating Covid-19 outbreak have argued they should not be forced to give evidence at a coroner’s inquest.

Officials at a Melbourne aged care home where 50 residents died in a Covid-19 outbreak have opposed the presentation of evidence as it would lead to a ‘dress rehearsal’ for criminal charges, was told a court.

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

During the outbreak at the Fawkner Institution in Melbourne’s north, 45 residents died with Covid-19 while five others died from neglect, including dehydration.

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

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

“If the plaintiffs were compelled to give evidence as ordered by the coroner, it would be a dress rehearsal in relation to any prosecution for charges brought against them under the Occupational Health and Safety Act “, Mr. Hill told the court.

He said representatives of the regulator were in court during the investigation and “others were actually doing their job”.

The lawyer argued that the coroner’s decision was biased because he allowed family members to testify about loved ones before deciding whether the handlers would be forced to testify.

The inquest looked into why the care home had not put in place a better Covid-19 plan, why staff had been kicked out of the home and what role the Commonwealth had played in handling the situation.

No criminal charges have been laid.

Only 49 of the more than 230 people who lived and worked at the facility did not contract the virus, the inquest said last year.

The hearing continues before Judge Stephen O’Meara.

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