Accused live baiter trial set to proceed after court ruling

AN ACCUSED live baiter's trial will proceed in Ipswich District Court after the Queensland Court of Appeal ruled judges do not always need to give reasons for not recusing themselves from a case.

In September, Ipswich prosecutors applied for Judge Greg Koppenol to excuse himself from presiding over the case of accused live baiter Reginald James Kay over apprehensions of bias.

Judge Koppenol had recently thrown out a case against a different accused live baiter and ruled covertly filmed footage as inadmissible evidence. Prosecutors said these rulings may cause an observer to see Mr Koppenol as biased.

But Judge Koppenol ruled he saw "no problem in my hearing the matter". He gave no other reasons.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath raised a question of law to the appeal court, asking if judges had to give reasons when refusing to recuse themselves.

The trial was delayed until the higher court made a ruling.

In a judgment delivered on Tuesday, Court of Appeal Justice Philip McMurdo said the prosecutor's application was not without basis.

"The prosecutor's argument was that there was an apparent bias, in that a fair-minded lay observer might reasonably apprehend that the judge might not bring an impartial mind to the resolution of a question which the judge might be required to decide in the course of the trial," he said.

"I intend no criticism of his honour in saying that the recusal application was not manifestly absurd or baseless."

Justice McMurdo said a judge did not need to be asked for reasons for them to be given.

The court of appeal was not specifically asked whether Judge Koppenol should have excused himself.

Justice McMurdo ruled judges did not have to give reasons as to why they were not excusing themselves "in every such case".

"The answer to the question ... must be that it depends upon the circumstances," he said.

Mr Kay's matter will return to court on December 13.

ARM NEWSDESK



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