Trial for ex-Labor politician adjourned

·2-min read

A judge has delayed the criminal retrial of Ian Macdonald after the former NSW Labor politician had difficulties instructing his lawyers from jail.

The hearing for Macdonald and union boss John Maitland was due to begin Monday. The pair have been charged over alleged corruption regarding the 2008 grant of the Doyles Creek mining licence in NSW's Hunter Valley.

Justice Hament Dhanji postponed the NSW Supreme Court trial until Tuesday, after Macdonald's lawyers said they had difficulty in talking with their client who is in jail on separate corruption charges.

Difficulties in gaining instructions from Macdonald regarding the trial were created because of the COVID-19 pandemic and technical issues such as poor audio quality on conference calls.

For a fair trial to take place, particularly in a complex trial, it was necessary for an accused to be able to instruct his lawyers, the judge said.

"Despite the efforts of the legal representatives in this case, that has not yet occurred, at least to any reasonable degree," the judge said.

Further discussions with the ex-politician could mean certain witnesses would not need to be called and reduce the length of the trial, the court heard.

"There is certainly on balance an advantage to the delay in circumstances where it will reduce the time for trial," Justice Dhanji said.

Macdonald, 73, is accused of misconduct in public office for favouring the interests of Doyles Creek Mining, chaired by Maitland, when granting the licence without a competitive tender.

He is incarcerated in the Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre in the Sydney suburb of Silverwater.

Maitland, 76, is charged with being an accessory to the fact and is on bail.

The pair were convicted in 2017 after a lengthy jury trial. However, that conviction was quashed in February 2019 after the appeals court found the jury was misdirected at trial on the state-of-mind element of the offence.

The matter is being heard in a judge-alone trial after a application by Macdonald to proceed without a jury was flagged in June this year.

The former minister is in prison after being convicted in October last year along with Eddie and Moses Obeid in a separate trial over a coal exploration licence in Bylong Valley which granted a $30 million windfall to their family.

In that conviction, Macdonald was jailed for at least five years and three months, former ministerial colleague Eddie Obeid was jailed for at least three years and 10 months, while his son was jailed for at least three years.