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Media thwarted in bid to name high profile rape accused

A Queensland magistrate has denied or adjourned applications by major media companies to reveal the identity of a high-profile man accused of rape.

Feb 22, 2023, updated Feb 22, 2023
Media Lawyer Xander Croft (centre) outside Toowoomba Magistrates Court. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Media Lawyer Xander Croft (centre) outside Toowoomba Magistrates Court. (AAP Image/Darren England)

The man, facing two charges of raping a woman in October 2021, had his case mentioned for the second time in Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Solicitors for News Corp, Seven and Nine networks, and the ABC applied to magistrate Kay Philipson to use her discretionary powers to grant an exemption to Queensland’s Sexual Offences Act that prohibits naming people accused of rape unless and until they are committed to stand trial.

Philipson said it was written in the “strict construction” of the law that she could not use those powers unless the matter proceeded to a committal hearing.

“I’m doing no more on this mention than determining where proceedings are at and what the next step is. I’m not holding a committal today, I’m not taking witnesses today,” she said.

The media organisations had also sought to gain access to court documents about the case but Philipson said she had no power to impose orders on the registrar, who receives and manages court paperwork.

“Where is my power to direct the registrar to do anything?” she said.

Philipson dismissed the application to access court documents as well as one of two applications to name the accused man, with the other application to be considered if the charges are brought to a committal hearing to decide if the matter will go to trial.

The high-profile man was excused from appearing in person and his barrister Andrew Hoare said there had been issues with some elements of the prosecution’s electronic brief of evidence not functioning.

Hoare said prosecutors had sought a forensic download of evidence and his client’s legal team would need six weeks to examine the prosecution’s brief of evidence.

Philipson granted an application for the matter to be adjourned until April 5 at Toowoomba Magistrates Court and extended the accused man’s bail.

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The media organisations’ lawyer, Zander Croft, said his clients would continue to pursue their application to name the accused man.

He said the application that was dismissed would not affect other application to name the accused.

“The next stage would be that the application will be heard at a committal hearing … if it proceeds to a committal,” he said.

The Queensland government last year announced it would change legislation to allow accused rapists to be named earlier in legal proceedings, in line with a recommendation of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.

-AAP

 

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