Accused journalist denied legal aid again

·2-min read

Veteran Sydney journalist Stephen Barrett is facing a complex criminal trial without a lawyer after his application for legal aid was rejected again.

The former 60 Minutes reporter has pleaded not guilty to blackmailing the alleged masterminds behind the $105 million Plutus Payroll tax scandal.

It is the second time the television journalist will be facing the NSW Supreme Court after his first jury was unable to return a verdict in April.

The 63-year-old allegedly used his media status to threaten a trio of accused fraudsters in February 2017 while working as part of a joint criminal enterprise.

He denies any wrongdoing and said he would return to fight the charges.

Highly experienced senior counsel represented Barrett at significantly reduced rates of payment during his first trial, the NSW Supreme was told at his last appearance in August.

After his application for legal aid was previously knocked back for the upcoming proceedings, Justice Peter Johnson backed a review into the granting of financial help.

Justice Johnson confirmed on Tuesday that his second application was dismissed in August meaning Barrett remained unrepresented.

"The court was informed today that an application is sought to be made on behalf of the accused, no doubt relating to the impact of his unrepresented status ahead of a criminal trial of some complexity," Justice Johnson said.

Barrett is also seeking access to some computers and a mobile phone that were confiscated by the Australian Federal Police when investigating the matter and which they still possess.

"It seems more than appropriate to me that the accused has access to these items if they cannot be returned at this point," Justice Johnson said.

While the trial was originally set down for November the judge said it was premature to predict whether it would go ahead given COVID-19 restrictions.

The matter will next return to court on October 5.

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