Two women facing drug-dealing charges as co-accused with Stephen Ramon Cookson, whose head was found washed up in a bag at Rottnest, have lost a bid to have their names suppressed ahead of a District Court trial.
District Court Chief Judge Peter Martino this morning refused an application to suppress the names of Loriana Crews and Lejla Tresnjo, who are facing charges of possessing methylamphetamine with intent to sell or supply and who are alleged to be co-offenders of Cookson.
Prosecutor Laura Christian handed up documents to Judge Martino indicating that a charge against Cookson would be discontinued in light of his death, but the notice was adjourned for procedural reasons relating to the provision of a death certificate.
Defence lawyer Anthony Eyers, representing Ms Crews, indicated that there could be an application to adjourn to a late date a four-week trial which had been scheduled to start in April, but the issue was put off until later this month to allow time to determine the expected length of the trial in light of Cookson’s death and availability of counsel.
Mr Eyers also applied for a suppression order prohibiting the publication of his client’s name, which was supported by defence lawyer Linda Black on behalf of Ms Tresjno.
He said there had been a “good deal” of publicity about Cookson’s involvement with “unsavoury” aspects of society which would not be relevant to the trial of the two women.
Mr Eyers submitted that the publicity would be damaging to his client’s professional reputation and could impact on the minds of potential jurors in the upcoming trial. He said the publicity included “irrelevant and otherwise inadmissible” information that would impact upon Ms Crews’ right to a fair trial.
The suppression order was opposed on behalf of thewest.com.au, with lawyer Tony McCarthy arguing there needed to be exceptional circumstances to impose the restriction and damage to reputation was no reason for granting the application.
Refusing the application, Judge Martino said there had been significant publicity about Cookson and there was a strong public interest in the circumstances of his death, which involved a bag being discovered at Rottnest.
While Judge Martino recognised there had also been extensive coverage about Cookson’s involvement in criminal activity, Cookson’s name would inevitably be referred to in the women’s trial and the judge in that hearing would need to consider giving an appropriate direction that jurors should disregard any matters which did not arise during the trial.