Victoria's latest coronavirus lockdown has helped open the door for a Canberra butcher to apply for bail on "very, very serious" charges laid over an alleged series of attacks on a pregnant woman.
But Martin Carl Phillips' hopes of freedom were quickly snuffed out on Monday, with the 36-year-old left holding his head in hands as a magistrate refused to release him from jail.
The Scullin man was due to face a five-day contested hearing in the ACT Magistrates Court this week, having pleaded not guilty to 12 charges relating to incidents that are said to have occurred in January.
Police claim Phillips forcibly confined a pregnant woman at a home in Macgregor, punched her in the face and stomach, stabbed her in the arm with a hunting knife, and threatened to kill her on multiple occasions.
The butcher was granted bail in February before being remanded in custody again in late April, when he was charged with committing further offences against two different people.
These included assaults, making threats to kill, and possessing weapons with intent.
In court on Monday, defence lawyer Dean Rutherford said Phillips had been "deprived of the opportunity to defeat [the most serious] charges this week".
He said Phillips' hearing into the January allegations had been pushed back until November because the alleged victim and two other "key witnesses", had moved to Victoria and were locked down.
Mr Rutherford argued this represented the special or exceptional circumstances Phillips needed to establish in order to have a fresh bail application considered.
But prosecutor Chamil Wanigaratne disagreed, claiming it was "not unusual" for hearings to be delayed because of "the situation with COVID-19".
Magistrate Glenn Theakston allowed the bail application to proceed, saying he was satisfied the delay occasioned by coronavirus restrictions was a special circumstance.
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This prompted Mr Rutherford to argue Phillips did not pose a risk to the witnesses in his matters, with those relevant to the first set of charges now in Victoria and the others not expressing any fears about him being released.
"He couldn't get into Victoria even if he wanted to," Mr Rutherford said.
Mr Theakston expressed some doubts about this.
"Well, he shouldn't, but he could," the magistrate said.
"Let's be frank. He could just get in a car and drive there."
Mr Rutherford went on to propose, however, that Phillips be required to report police in the ACT twice each day, which would make long-distance travel close to impossible.
He also conceded Phillips had an issue with drug use, but he said the butcher had been phoning residential rehabilitation facilities in a bid to be admitted to one.
Mr Theakston described Phillips' efforts in this area as "commendable", though he noted "nothing's really in place yet".
He also said he had "much sympathy" for Phillips in light of this week's hearing being delayed, but he described the first set of charges the 36-year-old faced as "very, very serious".
The magistrate said while the witnesses relevant to that hearing were now some distance from the ACT, the latest allegations "demonstrate a capacity [for Phillips] to offend in relation to a range of people".
He was therefore not satisfied it would be appropriate to release the butcher.
Phillips will return to court on various dates between now and November 15.
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