An Adelaide magistrate has taken up a concern that bikie Vincenzo Focarelli is being denied enough access to his lawyers.
The magistrate was told the lawyers had been unable to arrange a meeting with Focarelli in Yatala prison in Adelaide. The court heard Focarelli's lawyers asked for him to be brought to court for a drug charge hearing to give them a chance to speak with him. David Edwardson QC said the Chief Magistrate made arrangements for a jail order to bring Focarelli to court. "That was vetoed by the [Correctional Services] Department and then the registry changed the order so that there'd be a video link-up without him being here," the court was told.
It was told solicitor Stacey Carter "hasn't seen him in two weeks" and is "simply not being able to get instructions from Mr Focarelli at all". When she has been granted access, she is only getting 25 minutes with him which is "ludicrous, considering the complexity of the matters".
Magistrate Sue O'Connor said there was a reluctance to transport Focarelli because of the cost of ensuring his safety and security. But she it was hard to understand why the the lawyers could not get access to him, given he was being held in seclusion for 23 hours per day in the jail's high security G-division. She said the denial of access went "against every protocol". The magistrate said it was a matter of great concern and urged Focarelli's lawyers to contact the SA Government.
"The court cells are not here for the purpose of access to clients. That's something that you need to take up to the Minister of Correctional Services," she said. Mr Edwardson sought that a breach of bail issue be dealt with as soon as possible because it was an impediment to Focarelli getting bail on the drug charges. Ms O'Connor ordered the bail breach matters be dealt with next month.
Peter Severin from the Correctional Services Department said it had no power to veto court orders to transport prisoners to hearings and the difficulty had been that the jail's available appointment times had not suited the lawyers.
"Both the judiciary and the legal profession can be absolutely assured that the department will not in any way hinder access to justice or in any way prevent prisoners from having access to their defence lawyers to prepare for their cases and to make sure that all their legal entitlements are met," he said.
See article: Court told Vince Focarelli lawyers have been denied access