The barrister who succeeded in having Cardinal George Pell’s child sex convictions quashed has asked the ACT Court of Appeal to order a re-trial for a bikie who is behind bars for crimes including attempted murder.
Leading silk Bret Walker SC, who is also leading an inquiry into the Ruby Princess cruise ship, represented Canberra Comanchero bikie Axel Sidaros at an appeal hearing on Thursday.
Sidaros, 25, is serving 14 years in jail after being found guilty by a jury last year of seven offences. The charges, which included attempted murder, related to a shooting and arson attack on former Canberra Comanchero commander Peter Zdravkovic in June 2018, following a split in the club.
Dramatic CCTV of the incident at Zdravkovic’s Calwell home shows four hooded assailants, but Sidaros is the only one to have ever been charged. On Thursday, Mr Walker told the ACT Court of Appeal that Sidaros’ convictions should be quashed on four grounds.
Mr Walker said Chief Justice Helen Murrell had been wrong to allow the trial jury to consider “spontaneous utterances” Sidaros made to a police officer while being extradited to the ACT from Victoria. He said Sidaros had only made the comments after police acted improperly by giving Sidaros a document that falsely stated Sidaros’ gun had been used in the shooting.
The document should have said cartridges consistent with that type of gun had been found at the scene.
At the trial, prosecutors relied on the “spontaneous utterances” – which included Sidaros claiming someone had stolen his gun on the night in question – to argue Sidaros had lied to police and demonstrated a “consciousness of guilt”.
Mr Walker further alleged that Chief Justice Murrell had given incorrect instructions to the jury on how to treat circumstantial evidence, potentially distracting and confusing jurors. He said the judge had also made errors in directing the jury on how to approach the evidence of notoriously unreliable prison informers, whose evidence could be “easily concocted” for personal benefit, and specifically how to deal with claims made by jailhouse witness Zachary Froome.
Froome told the trial that Sidaros, while behind bars on remand, had confessed that he attempted to assassinate Zdravkovic. Mr Walker said the alleged errors had deprived Sidaros, who continues to claim innocence, of “a real chance of acquittal”.
“There should be a quashing of the verdicts and the convictions, and there should be an order for a re-trial,” Mr Walker said.
But ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC told the court the appeal should be dismissed. Mr Drumgold said police did not knowingly provide Sidaros with false information, and they had reminded him of his right to silence twice before he made the comments Mr Walker described as “spontaneous utterances”.
The prosecutor said Chief Justice Murrell had been right to allow these comments into evidence at the trial.
Mr Drumgold also said Chief Justice Murrell had provided “comprehensive cautions” to the jury, and that Sidaros’ appeal had failed to establish the possibility that jurors had been confused about how to deal with the evidence presented.
He said the jury had considered a wide variety of evidence and could have convicted Sidaros even without Froome’s testimony.
The appeal court panel of Justice Michael Elkaim, Acting Justice Robert Crowe and Acting Justice David Robinson will hand down its decision at a later date.
Source: Canberra Times