ACT News

Chief Justice disqualifies herself from hearing Eastman's bail proceedings

The ACT's chief judge has disqualified herself from hearing a fight over David Eastman's bail conditions after discovering that her husband had been a witness in the 1995 Eastman murder trial.

Charged: David Eastman is arrested in December 1992.
Charged: David Eastman is arrested in December 1992. Photo: Graham Tidy

Chief Justice Helen Murrell told the court on Wednesday that she had discovered a personal connection with a witness, who she did not name, and put the matter over for another judge to deal with on Monday.

"I don't personally feel any qualms with dealing with the matter, but on the other hand I think the perception might be there," she said.

Released: David Eastman is driven from jail in August 2014 after his conviction was quashed.
Released: David Eastman is driven from jail in August 2014 after his conviction was quashed. Photo: Jay Cronan

Chief Justice Murrell earlier this year presided over a challenge from the DPP to the inquiry which recommended that Eastman's conviction be quashed, and has also dealt with questions of the scheduling of any retrial.

The matter was before her on Wednesday during a hearing about bail conditions imposed on Eastman.

Her husband gave evidence in 1995 about handwriting on a gun licence application, in Eastman's diary, and notes said to have been erased from an advertisement.

He deciphered an erasure as being "Kelly, blonde, boobs", with the Crown suggesting that Kelly was the working name for a prostitute working in Fyshwick.

Finding judges who have not had some previous involvement with Eastman's case, or have no connection with witnesses,  has long been a problem for the ACT Supreme Court.

The court heard the only judge who could now deal with Eastman's bail was Justice Steven Rares, who is a visiting judge to the ACT Supreme Court.

The battle over Eastman's bail conditions will now come before him on Monday morning. 

Chief Justice Murrell told the parties they should consider whether she needed to disqualify herself from any future proceedings involving Eastman, including a retrial and a possible application by his lawyers to stay proceedings.

"I'm happy to remain in it, but if the parties consider that there's a problem ... then I would almost certainly accede to requests to remove myself."

Eastman's bail will continue in the same terms until Monday, save one condition preventing him from going to Australian Electoral Commission offices, which was removed.

The DPP is currently deciding on whether to push ahead with a retrial of Eastman for the killing of AFP Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester.