Legal Aid needs sorting

SYDNEY  siege gunman Man Haron Monis and his partner racked up tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees unsuccessfully ­defending themselves after sending hate mail to the families of dead Diggers — all at taxpayers’ expense. After shopping around, Monis found lawyer Hugo Aston. Aston told him he thought he had a case for an appeal against his conviction, for sending letters to the families of dead Diggers.
“It seemed there was a case here for the High Court to determine the veracity of the legislation under which he was charged,” Aston said yesterday. “Basically, on the implied right to free speech, because not only did he send the letters to families of the deceased he also sent them to politicians.”
How much did this appeal cost?
“I wouldn’t have a clue, it was all funded through the public purse, Legal Aid.”
Wouldn’t have a clue?  So he didn’t raise a file and record time spent on the case.  He didn’t discuss it with senior partners and Legal Aid were never sent a bill? Right! What he means is, he is embarrassed and the firm are trying to downplay their contribution. Who draws the line in these cases?  I have fondly thought that Legal Aid was available to poor people to help them get justice.  Now I find it’s available for enemies of the state to attack us. Further adding to the cost to taxpayers, Monis’s partner, Amirah Droudis, ran a concurrent case over the same matter, also to the High Court.
“They didn’t strike me as particularly sane sorts of people, they seemed a little unhinged,” Mr Aston said of the couple. “And, of course, what they were doing had nothing to do with Islam, it was born of fanaticism and ignorance.”
Aston’s law firm obviously did well out of the appeal but does anyone ever apply ethics when deciding who should get Legal Aid or is it just a case of “I think I see a loop hole where we can make money.
Legal Aid NSW paid for Monis’s legal representation — including a law firm and three barristers — as he took his case all the way to the High Court, despite his lawyer considering him “unhinged” and “fanatical” at the time.
The report ran to 85 pages and three judges of the high court went Monis’s way.  What were the thinking – that it’s really OK to send recently bereaved widows and families hate letters telling them their soldier relatives were murderers because…free speech? This whole affair offends me in so many ways. The judiciary release on bail a man charged with accessory to murder of his wife, of 40 or 50 cases of sexual abuse and found guilty of writing the letters to Army KIA Next of Kin and then Legal Aid chips in to help him by billing that taxpayer for the costs of a law firm and three barristers. And then he goes to the Lindt Cafe.    


  • From information currently available, it seems more than $120,000 was blown on his appeals over the convictions pertaining to the hate mail.

    I could be wrong, but I’ve a feeling that the solicitor referred to above, Mr. Aston, has his practice located just near the Lindt cafe. Wonder how things woulda panned out had Mr. Aston been one of the people inside cuppa-ing away when Sheikh Shotgun came in?

  • Aston having coffee at the wrong time would have been poetic justice in my mind.

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