SPIN FILE #5
Earlier this week John Maitland, who was the Chairman of Doyles Creek Mining Pty Ltd for a period before the company was purchased at arm’s length by NuCoal in February 2010, was sentenced after being found guilty of intentionally giving misleading evidence to the ICAC during public hearings in May 2013. The court ordered him to enter into a two-year good behaviour bond and pay a $3000 fine.
The SMH trumpeted that this was “the first (successful) criminal prosecution arising from the ICAC’s landmark coal inquiries”. Reportedly Mr Maitland’s barrister, Philip Massey, said “Not only is Mr Maitland suffering from depression today but he was also suffering from depression at the time of giving the evidence.” He said that Mr Maitland and his wife currently earned a combined income of $30,000 a year working on their son’s farm.
Philip Strickland, SC, for the Crown, said that “notwithstanding” Mr Maitland’s health concerns and “outstanding career” the court would be “in error to impose a bond”, and urged Judge Janet Wahlquist to give Mr Maitland a custodial sentence. The maximum penalty the court could have imposed was two years in prison, a $5500 fine, or both.
In passing sentence, Ms Wahlquist said “the importance of people telling the truth is paramount to our system of justice” and “a prison sentence was the starting point in such cases of misleading the ICAC. However in the light of Mr Maitland’s health, age and service to the community, Mr Maitland “did not need to be given any sentence of imprisonment“.
The case is worthy of comment – not because of the guilty verdict, which was obtained after a fair trial, but for a number of other reasons.
Firstly in this case John Maitland, self-admitted – after some coercion – that he lied to ICAC. He claimed that he completely forgot. He was referred for prosecution by ICAC, prosecuted by the DPP and was found guilty.
Compare this to the Barry O’Farrell case. Mr O’Farrell self-admitted – after some coercion – that he lied to ICAC. He claimed that he completely forgot, then he resigned. Despite his self-confessed guilt, he wasn’t pursued further by ICAC, referred to the DPP or prosecuted by the DPP and has no conviction on his name. Counsel assisting the ICAC said that he had ”suffered enough”. Poor Barry!
Since leaving office Mr O’Farrell has now been given three Liberal government part-time jobs. Recently he got a seat on the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. The job pays a $15,000 a year salary and is a plum job for a cricket fan like Mr O’Farrell. It follows Mr O’Farrell being put on the Australia India Council by Julie Bishop. The appointment also comes after Mr O’Farrell was appointed to head an online gaming review.
Mr O’Farrell already earns more than $150,000 a year courtesy of his parliamentary pension. So Mr O’Farrell’s family income exceeds $30,000 per year and he doesn’t have to work on his son’s farm. How can two very similar cases have such different outcomes? Why isn’t the DPP duty bound to prosecute self-confessed offenders like Barry O’Farrell? How is the DPP allowed to pick and choose who deserves prosecution in such cases? Why has the Premier of NSW rewarded this man with a plum job? How is it that Ms Wahlquist’s statement that “a prison sentence was the starting point in such cases of misleading the ICAC” has not been given any air by the Baird Government’s guardians of the law in respect of O’Farrell’s case?
Why is it that Mr Watson, Counsel Assisting ICAC, is able to announce that Mr O’Farrell won’t be prosecuted. Watson acted as prosecutor, judge, jury and sentencer all in one – obviously with the consent of ICAC!! Since when is this the role of Counsel Assisting?
There is little doubt that if any of us ever lied to ICAC we wouldn’t end up with the best seats at the SCG!
It all stinks! ICAC and all that it touches are politically damaged. But I guess everyone knows that now, after the continuing revelations in the recent press. Stories about how bad ICAC is are almost starting to lack impact and newsworthiness.
Still – it is to be hoped that Mr Tudehope adds this to the agenda of items he is considering in his role as ICAC Parliamentary Committee head.
There are a few other things worthy of comment. The SMH’s comment that this is the first successful prosecution is somewhat misleading. It is in fact the ONLY successful prosecution – so after two years the wonderful ICAC has managed to get someone on a good behaviour bond. Whoopee!! Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent, shareholders have lost their life’s savings and the reputation of the state of NSW has been trashed (see recent Fraser Institute ratings) so that someone could be put on a good behaviour bond!! Amazing!
If the coal enquiries were really “landmarks” then why haven’t they taken more scalps? Of the two enquiries (Jasper and Acacia), absolutely zero charges have come from Jasper, and although Ian McDonald and John Maitland have been charged after Acacia, the State of NSW is doing a really good job of ensuring that they never go to trial because they won’t fund McDonald’s defence. Maybe that is their strategy all along – if it’s never tried then the charges can’t be dismissed and the confusion around guilt, innocence and ICAC’s disdain for justice remains.
Who knows, the Obeid case against ICAC officers which is currently being heard may just end up with Jasper being declared a nullity. Now wouldn’t that be an interesting outcome for Mike Baird?
Clearly the current Premier is the only one that can sort this mess out. It really doesn’t look like he wants to do this, however. It is of course a mess partially of his own making. It is a truism that every leader worth calling a leader has to have a moral basis for his actions and be an upholder of the Rule of law and natural justice.
Mike Baird is currently missing in action on these traits.