Appeal Court president Margaret McMurdo said Ms Hanson and Mr Ettridge’s own statements that support-movement members were not members of the political party may have been misinformation designed to confuse the membership and entrench the pair’s grip on power.
She said it was reasonable to contend that the names on the supporters’ list were in fact members of the party.
“When all the evidence is considered, the prosecution was unable to negate the inference, reasonably open, that those on the list given to the electoral commissioner were members of the political party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, and that the statements made by Hanson and Ettridge to the opposite effect were simply misinformation intended to confuse the membership and to entrench the management committee’s grip on power under the party’s constitution,” Justice McMurdo said.
“It follows that the evidence could not support a guilty verdict and a verdict of acquittal should be substituted.”
Ms Hanson, 49, and Mr Ettridge, 58, were jailed for three years on August 20 after a Brisbane District Court jury convicted them of fraudulently registering the party.
Ms Hanson was also found guilty of fraudulently being paid almost $500,000 in electoral funding reimbursement to which the party was not entitled.
Chief Justice Paul de Jersey found it was possible the names on the list were of people who belonged to both the support movement and the political party.
“The preponderance of the available evidence points to the conclusion that the applications for membership became members of a political party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, or more probably, of both that political party and the support movement,” he said in a 13-page unanimous judgment he delivered on behalf of Justices McMurdo and Geoff Davies.
Justice de Jersey also said it was unlikely Ms Hanson or Mr Ettridge would have been convicted had they had represented by “experienced trial counsel.”