A man has been acquitted of threatening to kill the South Australian Premier over the State Government’s TAFE reforms in 2018.

Key points:

  • Kenneth Andrew Gillespie is accused of making threats against the Premier and his family
  • He has pleaded not guilty to the charge laid against him
  • Giving evidence in his own defence, he admitted to the court he has a tendency of “running off at the mouth”

Kenneth Andrew Gillespie, 65, faced a two-day trial in Adelaide’s District Court after pleading not guilty to threatening a public officer.

On Thursday the jury took two hours to find Mr Gillespie not guilty of the charge.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged Mr Gillespie rang the electoral office of Steven Marshall on September 6, 2018, a few days after it was announced several TAFE campuses would close.

He allegedly threatened to kill the Premier and his children if he continued with those plans.

Earlier, the accused had given evidence in his own defence, saying he had called political offices “hundreds and hundreds” of times in the three years leading up to September 2018.

He said he started looking into his power bill “a bit deeper” and started by calling Energy Australia before phoning the regulator 15 times.

The painter and decorator told jurors that he developed a keen interest in politics after being forced to go “on the dole” and having difficult encounters associated with it.

He admitted making the two phone calls to Mr Marshall’s office, but said he did not make a threat to kill.

Mr Gillespie told the jury — of six women and six men — that he angrily spoke to a staffer at Mr Marshall’s Dunstan office about the TAFE cuts and privatisation of the Adelaide Remand Centre.

“It wasn’t a long conversation but I said, ‘now these correctional services, they don’t work when privatised. They haven’t worked anywhere in the f***ing world — rehabilitation goes out the window and reoffending goes through the roof’,” he said.

He said that if changes weren’t made, the Premier and his children would “be in peril and ostracised” by the community.

Sam Diprose (right) told the jury the phone call he took from Mr Gillespie had stayed with him for a long time.(ABC News: Claire Campbell)

Chris Weir, for Mr Gillespie, asked his client if he was “angry” and would describe his demeanour as being “verbally abusive”.

Mr Gillespie admitted that he was.

But when asked if he threaten to kill the Premier, he said “never”.

Under cross-examination, prosecutor Karen Ingleton asked Mr Gillespie if he was prone to making statements without thinking or “running off at the mouth”.

But when she made the suggestion that he did make those threats to kill, he said that was “completely and utterly wrong … and I’m offended by it”.

Mr Gillespie told jurors that he “wanted to make an impact” during the conversation with staffer Sam Diprose but said he ever made a threat to kill.