Crown to pay mum's $50k legal fees
THE CROWN has been ordered to pay the $50,000legal costs of Lismore mother Tracey Leete who spent five months in jail on drug charges only to have the Crown drop its case because it could not offer any evidence.
The charges against Ms Leete, 50, were withdrawn by the Crown before Lismore Local Court in late April.
Arrested in November 2008 Ms Leete, through her defence lawyer James Fuggle, strongly maintained her innocence of two Crown charges of supplying commercial quantities of heroin and amphetamine.
Mr Fuggle was able to secure her release from custody only after she had spent more than five months in jail waiting for the matters to go before Lismore Local Court.
This week the matter of Ms Leete's legal costs went before magistrate Robyn Denes and the Crown agreed to Mr Fuggle's application it would pay $50,000.
Mr Fuggle, speaking outside the courtroom, said Ms Leete's matter had been undertaken by the Legal Aid Commission and the $50,000 would help reimburse its costs.
“The Crown knew it had no admissible evidence against her but continued to claim it did for a long period of time, and this included her being in custody for over five months,” Mr Fuggle said.
“I challenge the NSW Government or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to offer this lady an appropriate amount of financial compensation for the time they incarcerated her, and the damage that was done to her personally.
“It has caused a serious disruption to her life, and the destruction of certain relationships.
“I challenge them to show some responsibility and accountability, and to contact her, through me at my law office, and save her the further effort and cost of having to take legal proceedings against the State Government and DPP.”
Mr Fuggle said serious consideration must be made with regard to making ‘a reasonable offer of financial compensation' for the damage done to Ms Leete by having her incarcerated for so long when the Crown knew it had nothing to show on her.
Mr Fuggle said his client would otherwise pursue a legal compensation case in the courts.
He indicated a six-figure sum was likely to be sought.