No cash for veteran reporter's 'seven years of torture'

Veteran crime reporter Stephen Barrett has lost a bid to recover almost half a million dollars in legal costs he spent defending an ultimately abandoned blackmail case against him.

NSW Supreme Court Justice Natalie Adams rejected Barrett's application in a judgment handed down on Wednesday.

Barrett had been prosecuted over a plot to blackmail the masterminds behind the $105 million Plutus tax evasion scheme and accused of working to extort millions of dollars from them.

The Plutus conspirators skimmed off GST meant for the Australian Taxation Office and transferred it elsewhere.

Justice Adams said it was not unreasonable for Barrett to have been prosecuted.

Although there were some unanswered questions about aspects of the case, the central question of whether Barrett was a participant in a blackmail or an innocent journalist used by the offenders was "a matter properly for a jury to determine",  she said.

Outside court, Barrett said he hoped to appeal the judgment but was yet to read the full findings.

He told reporters that the refusal comes "just weeks shy of seven years of torture" for him and his family,

"I've always maintained that I'm not guilty," he said.

The former 60 Minutes journalist also encouraged media to check how much it was costing in taxpayer funds "to attack an innocent journalist".

Crown prosecutors had alleged Barrett used his position as a journalist to threaten to blow the lid on the Plutus scheme and extort $5 million from its architects in February 2017.

Journalist Stephen Barrett leaves the NSW Supreme Court
Barrett's trial concluded with a hung jury before prosecutors withdrew a single charge against him. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

They said Barrett pocketed $10,000, but he denied receiving anything more than $2000 from now-convicted blackmailer Daniel Hausman for journalistic services.

Hausman's credibility was shot and he was "a proven liar", Justice Adams heard in January.

A criminal trial against Barrett concluded with a hung jury in May 2021 before prosecutors in July 2023 withdrew a single charge of making an unwarranted demand with menaces with the intention of obtaining a gain.

Barrett's barrister Gregory Woods KC previously told the court of his client's 20-year-long career as an investigative reporter who commonly associated with criminals to chase down leads.

The journalist's motivation in dealing with Hausman and other co-conspirators was pursuing a story, he said.

"He was going to do what he did in the past, which was get it on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, or channel Seven or channel Nine," Dr Woods said.

In response, prosecutor Patricia McDonald SC said the jury could still have convicted Barrett based on other evidence, such as telephone calls and meetings recorded by police.