New secrecy bid: Gympie court asked to protect accused
FOR the second day in a row, Gympie magistrate Chris Callaghan yesterday rejected calls for cases to be heard in secret.
In the wake of suppression orders issued interstate and in Queensland, Mr Callaghan was faced with requests for similar orders on Tuesday and yesterday.
It is an issue which has attracted controversy nationally and even overseas, with some international media accused to breaching suppression orders issued in other country's courts.
Mr Callaghan ruled that exceptional circumstances which might sometimes justify suppression orders in other cases did not exist in the matters before him on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Before the court was Bundaberg district man Shane Grant Boston, 42, who is accused of stalking. Mr Boston had entered a guilty plea and was due to be sentenced.
But his barrister told the court Mr Boston had been overwhelmed by the system and now wished to withdraw the plea.
At this point, the barrister asked if the matter could be heard in a closed court. He said it was "part and parcel" of a dispute in another court.
"What's the legal basis?" Mr Callaghan asked, as he rejected the submission.
He said there were "some instances involving other court proceedings" where suppression orders were issued.
One was "to protect a person still facing further trial" and the other occurred under a power which existed within the Justices Act. Neither such circumstances applied here, Mr Callaghan said.
The barrister was more successful in arguing that Mr Boston be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
He argued that Mr Boston, a person suffering the effects of a former long term amphetamine addiction, "did not grasp the consequences of his guilty plea. He wasn't in a fit state to understand the situation," the lawyer said.
"He has a mental health condition, depression and chronic substance abuse (amphetamine)," he said.
Mr Boston had mistakenly believed he did not stand a chance of beating the charge.
Mr Callaghan allowed withdrawal of Mr Boston's plea and adjourned the case to February 4.