Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Payout for Sydney bomb plot accused

A judge has ruled it was not reasonable for the crown to institute legal proceedings against a couple accused of plotting to plant a bomb in a Sydney street.

In the NSW Supreme Court today, Justice Peter Hidden said the contents of taped phone calls between the pair could never have risen "above the level of suspicion".

Jill Allison Courtney, 27, of Casula in Sydney, had been accused of agreeing to plant the bomb in return for a promise of marriage from her boyfriend, Lithgow prison inmate boyfriend Hussan Kalache, 28.

They faced a NSW Supreme Court trial in February, where they both pleaded not guilty to conspiring to murder unknown persons between June 1, 2005, and March 24, 2006.

They also denied an alternative count of conspiring to cause an explosive to be placed in or near a public place with the intent to cause actual bodily harm to unknown persons.

The prosecution based its case on a series of phone conversations made while Kalache was serving a jail term for murder.

But after the crown finished its case on February 29, Justice Peter Hidden directed the jury to acquit the couple.

He ruled the evidence called by the crown was insufficient to establish the charges.

As a result, lawyers for Ms Courtney and Kalache - who is serving the remainder of a lengthy term for the murder of a drug rival - applied for their legal costs.

In agreeing to the application today, Justice Hidden noted the only evidence of a "combination" between the two were the phone calls.

"I found that evidence to be deficient such so it was not open to the jury to find the necessary meeting of minds to establish a conspiracy," he said.

In ruling on the application, the judge had to consider whether there was an "inherent weakness" in the prosecution case.

"The calls, as evidence of 'combination' could never have risen above the level of suspicion," he concluded.

Justice Hidden said he was satisfied it had not been reasonable to institute the proceedings.

Both Ms Courtney and Kalache were funded by Legal Aid NSW, which will now have its costs repaid by the Attorney General's department.

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