“Unattractive” orders on bugging case
The judge overseeing a case against the lawyer of a former spy at the centre of a bugging scandal involving East Timor could face 10 years in jail if he breaches secrecy arrangements.
Lawyer Bernard Collaery is fighting conspiracy charges after allegedly helping a former client – an intelligence officer known as Witness K – blow the whistle on the 2004 diplomatic incident.
The twin cases centre on Australia bugging East Timor’s cabinet rooms while the two countries were locked in negotiations over an oil deal.
Justice David Mossop raised multiple issues in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday about orders placed on the court by the Attorney-General’s Department to handle classified evidence.
Mr Collaery was in the public gallery while the matter was heard.
A combination of existing legislation, proposed orders from the Attorney-General’s department and agreements court staff would have to make with Australian intelligence agencies could expose the judge and his staff to up to 10 years in prison if breached.
The Commonwealth would also pay for and provide special court transcription services that meet national security requirements.
Justice Mossop also heard the court would have to set up a specific room where classified documents could be reviewed.
“I must say it’s a somewhat unattractive proposition,” he said.
He gave the prosecution and defence lawyers until October 9 to address the issues he raised and agree on compromises.
The full trial of Mr Collaery is set to return to court on October 24.
Witness K’s case is due to be heard in the ACT Magistrate’s Court next Tuesday.
While Mr Collaery is fighting the charges, Witness K is expected to plead guilty.