1987 Bowen moves on prosecutions

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Bowen moves on prosecutions
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05/11/1987 – The Sydney Morning Herald

by Ross Dunn

CANBERRA: The Attorney-General, Mr Bowen, plans to introduce urgent legislation today to allow a number of prosecutions to proceed, including criminal charges against Dr Geoffrey Edelsten.

Edelsten is facing charges of conspiring with the missing underworld figure Christopher Dale Flannery to assault a former patient, Mr Stephen Evans, between January 1 and April 30, 1984, and of conspiring with Flannery and others between January 1 and February 29, 1984, to pervert the course of justice.

The matter is up for mention again on December 15.

The prosecution case is primarily based on the tender of cassette tapes of two telephone conversations intercepted by scanners. Although illegally intercepted, there is legal precedent for them to be accepted as evidence at the discretion of the court.

Under changes to the Telecommunications Interceptions Act, the Government intends to remove this discretion in future cases.

However, the Government had proposed in its original bill a section to ensure that proceedings currently before the court, such as the Edelsten case, were not affected.

This section was knocked out in the Senate through the combined opposition of the Coalition parties, who claimed it was retrospective, and the Australian Democrats.

Mr Bowen will reintroduce this section of the bill today, banking on Opposition support because of the threatened court cases.

Mr Bowen told Parliament yesterday it was clear that the bill, as originally proposed, “would have allowed the prosecutions to continue”.
“They are in jeopardy now,” he said.

The Government had not proclaimed the Act because it wanted the prosecutions to proceed.

The Coalition parties agreed this week to support in principle changes to the telephone interceptions bill.

At the same time, the shadow Attorney-General, Mr Reith. claims the Opposition’s policy on the legislation has not changed.

The Opposition believed that the admissibility of telephone tap material, illegal or not, should be left to the court’s discretion.

He said the Government wanted the Opposition to “agree to a bill which ensures that illegally obtained information which has been obtained in the past will be admissible under the Common Law whilst illegally obtained information obtained in the future will be not be admissible”.

“This is a classic case of the Government wanting to have its cake and eat it too:’ Mr Reith said.

“It is happy to see illegally obtained information to prosecute certain pending actions but it would bar such material in future cases.”

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