Secrecy around teacher’s alleged detention, death lifted
A court order suppressing all details of a troubling North Coast court case has been eased.
Mystery had surrounded the case against three people charged with taking or detaining schoolteacher Anthony Stott at a Cudgera Creek property on the Tweed Coast, since a non-publication order covering all details of the case was imposed last May.
Police will allege Mr Stott was detained at a rural property before he was fatally struck by a truck on the Pacific Highway nearby on the morning of February 10 last year.
Mr Stott was allegedly struck by the semi-trailer about 7am.
Police will allege Craig Arthut Button, 50, Lauren Grainger, 39, and Mark Frost, 47, each had a part in his detention on the farm.
The Tweed Newspaper Company, the publisher of Tweed Daily News, brought an application before the court last December, seeking a review of the broad non-publication order that was in place since May.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police and one of the defendants initially opposed this application.
But the order was revoked and new, more specific, restrictions were imposed when the matter returned to Tweed Heads Local Court on Friday.
In written submissions, News Corp Australia's National Editorial Counsel Michael Cameron, representing Tweed Daily News, argued the original order was "too broad" and effectively prohibited any reporting on the case.
He submitted the case was a matter of "genuine public interest".
"The principle of open justice is a fundamental value of our legal system," he said.
In December, the court heard parts of a police brief of evidence had been leaked to a media organisation, but Mr Cameron argued in his submissions this did not justify a "blanket ban on reporting of proceedings".
"There is insufficient evidence to sustain the contention that the public interest in open administration of justice is significantly outweighed by the public interest in the order being continued," he said.
The court heard the publisher, the DPP and police had come to an agreement on terms of a new order, which would allow for coverage of the case.
Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy said, after considering the information before him, he accepted the original order was "too broad and a much more defined order should be made".
"I'm also satisfied the commissioner has identified the appropriate grounds for making an order," Mr Dunlevy said.
He said this order "gives proper effect" to the relevant legislation while balancing this with "the need for open justice".
The case against Mr Button, Mr Frost and Ms Grainger was briefly mentioned and adjourned to March 12.
On that date, a case conference certificate is expected to be filed for each accused.
Solicitor for Mr Frost, Tom Ivey, told the court the case against his client was expected to be "resolved" in the near future.
No formal pleas have been lodged by any of the accused.