The case of a former Australian military lawyer charged over the leak of documents to journalists was committed on Thursday to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
David William McBride, 55, is accused of theft and three counts of breaching the Defence Act, for being a person who is a member of the defence force and communicating a plan, document or information, an offence that carries and unlimited fine or prison time as penalty when heard on indictment. He is also charged under old secrecy provisions in the federal Crimes Act, which make it an offence for a Commonwealth official to disclose information without authorisation.
The leaks were to journalists Dan Oakes, Andrew Clark and Chris Masters. The charges relate in part to an ABC investigation published in 2017 called "The Afghan Files: Defence leak exposes deadly secrets of Australia's special forces."
Mr McBride has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He does not deny passing information on but will defend the charge on legal grounds. He said on an earlier occasion: "I saw something illegally being done by the government and I did something about it."
He was previously represented by Legal Aid, but appeared in court on Thursday representing himself. He told The Canberra Times of concerns about his Legal Aid lawyers being permitted to access the necessary documents, and his discomfort in using a large amount of the organisation's resources, for what could be a long period of time.
The ACT Magistrates Court heard on Thursday that Mr McBride would consent to a set of orders proposed by the Commonwealth attorney-general under the national security information laws that will govern how sensitive material is handled during the case.
Once the consent orders are made Mr McBride will be able to access the brief, the court heard.
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker committed the case for trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
The first directions hearing in the higher court is listed for June 13.
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