‘Animal lover': Protester accused of striking horse to plead not guilty

A man accused of punching a horse during Sydney’s anti-lockdown protests has been bailed after the court was told he was an “animal lover” and acting in self-defence during the incident.

Kristian Pulkownik is set to be released after spending three weeks in custody following the July 24 “Rally For Freedom” event during which some of the 3500 protesters clashed with police.

Mr Pulkownik has been the subject of widespread condemnation after a photo captured the moment he is alleged to have punched a police horse.

However, lawyers told the court that he was acting in self-defence and had no intention of harming the animal.

His barrister Chris O’Donnell successfully applied for bail after arguing that Mr Pulkownik was not the aggressor during the heated clash with police.

Pictures captured the massage student in a yellow singlet emblazoned with the words “free speech” making contact with the horse “Tobruk”.

The court was played two videos – one from a Snapchat account and another from a Nine Network news helicopter – which the prosecution alleged captured the animal cruelty incident.

The police prosecution opposed bail, arguing Mr Pulkownik was facing a possible jail sentence if convicted and posed a risk to the community.

However Mr O’Donnell claimed that Mr Pulkownik did not instigate any act of violence against the horse.

“You can see in the video, in my respectful submission, there is a live issue as to whether the accused was punching a horse,” Mr O’Donnell said.

“On the contrary, he was fending off the horse as it was moving towards him at the time in question.”

Magistrate Clare Farnan told the court that several character references tendered to the court “painted a different picture of Mr Pulkownik as a caring animal lover”.

“Just before what appears to be the accused coming in contact with the horse, the horse turns towards him and is in effect ridden towards him,” Mr O’Donnell said.

“Rather than punching the horse, he was fending it off in self-defence.”

Mr Pulkownik was arrested at his Surry Hills home on the evening following the rally and is set to plead not guilty to affray, joining or continuing in an unlawful assembly and committing an act of cruelty.

He has also been charged with breaching a Covid-19 restriction; however, he did not enter a plea for that count on Wednesday.

He has been incarcerated since his arrest 2½ weeks ago because his application for bail was held up after he refused a Covid test in jail and was put in isolation for a fortnight.

‘Animal lover’: Protester accused of striking horse to plead not guilty

Camera IconSergeant Melinda Duncan with mounted police horse ‘Tobruk’, who is alleged to have been the victim of animal cruelty at Sydney’s anti-lockdown rally. Justin Lloyd. Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr O’Donnell told the court that he had refused the test because he had asthma and was afraid of “adverse” effects of the nasal swab.

Ms Farnan granted him bail on the conditions that he live with his mother, comply with all public health orders, not enter the Sydney CBD and be of good behaviour.

“It’s a difficult time in Sydney for everybody since this has happened, and it hasn’t really got any better, and I urge you to understand the health orders, complying with them is in everyone’s interest, they’re in your interest,” Ms Farnan said.

“Yes your honour,” Mr Pulkownik said as he watched proceedings from Parklea Correctional Central via videolink.

“I have no intention of breaching anything.”

Mr Pulkownik will return to court in September.

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