Shai Major at Byron Bay Court House.
Shai Major at Byron Bay Court House. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Schoolies ‘slum landlord' in court

BYRON Bay's so-called 'slum landlord', Shai Major, has pleaded not guilty to running an illegal backpackers hostel on the town's main street.

Mr Major appeared in Byron Bay court yesterday in sneakers and a T-shirt before Magistrate Michael Dakin.

Byron Shire Council alleges that 18 people, including eight schoolies and 10 backpackers, were crammed into a Jonson St property rented by Mr Major.

It's alleged he was charging them up to $800 a week to live in unhygienic and overcrowded conditions.

But in court yesterday Mr Major denied the charge of 'development without consent' - an offence that holds a maximum penalty of $100,000.

The same charge against the owner of the property, Fletcher Jonson Pty Ltd, was withdrawn and dismissed as the owner signed an undertaking about future use of the property.

Mr Major represented himself in court and told the magistrate he wished to view the council's evidence against him and information it had provided to the media.

"I would like to place a subpoena against the council for the information they provided to The Northern Star," Mr Major said.

"You can't do that. You should take some advice, these are criminal proceedings not civil," Magistrate Dakin replied.

Magistrate Dakin said the council was under no obligation to provide evidence to the defendant and that Mr Major appeared not to understand legal procedures.

He advised Mr Major to get a lawyer, but the defendant replied he could not afford one.

The case has been adjourned for hearing on the April 20, with a listing for mention on the return of subpoenas on March 30.

Council governance manager Ralph James said he was confident of proving the allegations against Mr Major.

"Council would not have launched the proceedings if it didn't believe it had at least a prima facie case and nothing that has happened has shaken me from that view," Mr James said.

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