NSW Police have been ordered to pay a $7500 legal bill after wrongly accusing a Picton man of abusing turkeys at Inghams' Tahmoor processing plant.
Police charged Ben Dunsmore with three counts of animal torture after they received video footage from animal rights activist group Animal Liberation, appearing to show workers at the Inghams Enterprises plant kicking and stomping on turkeys.
The abuse footage, recorded by cameras hidden in the plant, was widely condemned when it was aired on ABC's Lateline program in March last year.
At the time the current affairs program said the video had been passed to police for investigation.
As a result, officers arrested Inghams factory employee Mr Dunsmore in April, claiming he was one of the workers who took part in the animal cruelty.
The charges were dropped in December due to lack of evidence.
Mr Dunsmore, who lost his job as a result of the court action, pursued a costs order against the prosecution to have police pay his legal bill.
In a judgment handed down in Wollongong Local Court yesterday, magistrate Mary Ryan granted Mr Dunsmore's application, criticising the police's handling of the case.
Officers never had a shred of evidence against Mr Dunsmore, she said.
She found the police investigation and subsequent court case had been handled in an "unreasonable and improper" manner.
"The prosecution case was devoid of any evidence pointing to [Mr Dunsmore]," she said.
"This was a circumstantial case and not a strong one at that.
"There's not one statement or any piece of evidence that the court could make a finding on."
The court heard there were at least 32 potential witnesses in the case, however most had refused to make statements to police handling the case.
Ms Ryan said despite that, police brought those witnesses to Picton Court in November "under false pretence" in order to attempt to obtain statements from them.
She labelled the action "misleading" and said the conduct of the police prosecutor, Leonard Kerr, in facilitating those actions was "of great concern".
Mr Dunsmore's lawyer, Aaron Kernaghan, said his client felt vindicated after the charges were dropped and was relieved the case was finally over.
"He is grateful the court has ensured his right to fairness has been protected," Mr Kernaghan said.
"No-one deserves to be charged, put on bail and dragged through the courts at huge expense without there being sufficient evidence.
"Today's decision will be a stern warning to prosecutors to work hard to ensure that doesn't happen in the future."
No-one else was charged over the Inghams allegations.