ACT News

Prosecutors try to disqualify magistrate after he criticised their 'appalling' waste

Prosecutors tried to disqualify a magistrate who criticised them over an "appalling" waste of taxpayers' money in their handling of a minor assault case involving a Canberra murderer. 

Aleksander Vojneski, 31, is currently behind bars awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of the stabbing murder of his girlfriend, Paula Conlon, in her Macgregor home in 2012.

But he has pleaded not guilty to a charge of common assault for allegedly bashing a prison guard while awaiting trial for Ms Conlon's murder in August last year.

Earlier this month, Magistrate Peter Dingwall seriously questioned the judgment of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions after it refused to a deal proposed by Vojneski's lawyers.

That deal would have seen Vojneski admit the conduct and have the minor assault charge dealt with at the same time as the murder sentencing.

It would have prevented the need for a separate hearing on the prison bashing in the ACT Magistrates Court and the duplication of evidence already heard by the ACT Supreme Court during Vojneski's murder trial earlier this year. 

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Mr Dingwall criticised the DPP, asking who had approved the decision, and asked the prosecution to explain to the public why he was wasting so much of their money on the minor charge.

"It's an appalling waste of public resources for this matter to remain in this court," he said.

"And absolutely no particular public interest or value. I just cannot understand any rationale for not having this matter dealt with in the Supreme Court."

In response, the DPP has used those comments to launch a fresh set of proceedings in the ACT Magistrates Court to have Mr Dingwall disqualified from hearing the prison bashing case. 

They argued that Mr Dingwall had opened himself up to perceptions that he was biased, had pre-judged the matter, and could not bring an impartial mind to the case. 

Vojneski's case appeared briefly before Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker on Wednesday. 

But the court heard the DPP's application may now not be needed, because Vojneski's lawyer Ashleigh Tilbrook asked for the hearing date to be vacated, and a new one set.

That is likely to take the matter away from Mr Dingwall without the need for him to disqualify himself.

The case will come back before court later this month, when Vojneski is expected to indicate whether he will use a defence of mental impairment for the alleged prison guard bashing. 

A hearing date has been set for late November.