Zoe Buhler: Pregnant Ballarat mum to fight incitement charge

A pregnant Ballarat mum is set to challenge whether police legally searched her home when she was arrested in her pyjamas for allegedly inciting others to protest Victoria’s lockdown.

Zoe Lee Buhler is charged with inciting others to breach the state’s stay at home orders between August 31 and September 2 last year.

Victoria was in a strict lockdown because of a coronavirus outbreak at the time.

Police allege a social media post the 28-year-old made incited people to breach public health laws in place at the time by leaving their homes to attend the “freedom day” protest.

Ms Buhler appeared via video link in the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Friday.

Her lawyer Hugo Moodie told the court there were several key issues he would argue at the contested hearing to be held in November.

Mr Moodie said the first was whether the police search of her home was legal.

But he said if the material showed it was a lawful search he would question the public health directives in place at the time.

“The arguments will be around whether the public health directions prohibited peaceful, socially distanced protest,” Mr Moodie told the court.

They would also examine if Ms Buhler had a “reasonable excuse” under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act and whether she intended to breach the law or was just expressing a view.

Up to three police witnesses would also be called to give evidence at the case, the court was told.

Mr Moodie also told the court his client wanted to get her phone back from police who had it since she was initially arrested.

A separate date was going to be fixed so he could argue for the return of Ms Buhler’s mobile.

The hearing for the case is expected to run for three days with magistrate Tim Walsh noting it was not a common legal argument heard in the regions.

“The sort of legal issues that are going to be canvassed are not the types of issues that us magistrates in the regions deal with every day, so there could be some down time while we’re considering these issues,” Mr Walsh said.

A video on social media showed Ms Buhler getting put in handcuffs at her home while dressed in pyjamas at her Miners Rest home on September 2.

The mum is expected to give birth to her third child next month and is due to face court again on November 23.

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