Palm fraud case stalls
FURTHER complications have reared their head in the case against fraud-accused former Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey.
Lacey was hit with criminal charges more than a year ago alleging he committed a fraud exceeding $100,000 after an extensive investigation by Queensland’s peak corruption watchdog.
Further, Lacey is charged with failing to maintain his register of interests – a requirement under the Local Government Act.
His case, which must proceed to a higher jurisdiction, remains in the Magistrates Court after a series of twists, turns and delays.
Lacey’s wife, Melissa Lacey, is jointly charged over the alleged fraud.
Previously, Magistrate Ross Mack has described the holdup in the pair’s case as “ludicrous” and expressed his clear frustration about delays.
At the most recent mention of the matter, Lacey’s defence lawyer Patrick Quinn flagged concerns a key witness was trapped in Melbourne due to coronavirus lockdowns.
Mr Quinn said he did not accept a proposal from prosecutors to have the man give evidence via video link as English was not his first language.
“In our view after listening to recordings in the brief an interpreter is going to be required and due to logistics of the interpreter over a video link … is going to be problematic.”
Crown prosecutor Scott Collins rejected this and said after listening to recordings and speaking to the witness he formed the opinion the man’s English was “good”.
“We cannot get this witness up here, as much as we would like to, and even if we did I would have trouble justifying the expense of getting him here,” Mr Collins said.
“The only other option is for us to proceed by way of a video link at a local police station.
Mr Collins said a large number of text messages between Lacey, his wife and the witness would form part of the prosecution case.
Further complicating the matter, Mr Collins told the court another witness was currently travelling in remote parts of the Northern Territory on a reconciliation trip and would not be able to attend court.
Mr Mack said a plan was needed to ensure the man could give evidence and that the matter needed to progress.
Lacey’s matter is set down for a committal mention with cross examination on Monday.
In a committal mention a magistrate must decide if there is sufficient evidence to commit the charge for trial in the District Court.
Mr Quinn said he intended to make an application that his client had no case to answer at this proceeding.