Pay order after Tas slave charges dropped

·1-min read

Two Tasmanians who were accused of human trafficking and keeping a slave, but had the charges dropped, will still have to pay their legal costs.

The pair, who are from Launceston and cannot be named, were arrested and charged by the Australian Federal Police in July 2019.

They made several court appearances and were committed to stand trial, until the prosecution announced in September, 2020 it did not intend to proceed.

Supreme Court of Tasmania Justice Robert Pearce dismissed their bid to have the Commonwealth pay their legal fees.

Justice Pearce said the mere fact the prosecution was discontinued is not sufficient to justify a costs order and the relevant state legislation does not apply to federal offences.

"The case was never listed for trial and, as far as I can tell, was nowhere near being ready for trial," he wrote in a judgment published on Monday.

"In light of the normal delay in preparation of matters in this court, it progressed at a relatively standard pace, and the decision to not indict was made at an appropriate time.

"The applicants were not unreasonably and unnecessarily put to any costs, still less the costs of preparing for trial."

Justice Pearce said he was given "no evidentiary or other material" about the subject of the charges, the nature of the case against the pair, what circumstances led to them being charged, or what circumstances led to the decision to not indict.

He said the well-established general rule at common law is that the Crown neither receives nor pays costs.

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