Friday, February 13, 2009

Standen case hinges on missing evidence!

Harriet Alexander February 13, 2009

THE drug importation case against a former senior member of the NSW Crime Commission, Mark Standen, was postponed yesterday after the prosecution said it did not have enough evidence to substantiate all the charges against him.

Standen, 51, contributed to some of the state's biggest drug cases as assistant director of investigations at the commission, and is facing charges of conspiring to import and supply a commercial quantity of pseudoephedrine.

He was arrested in June after two years of surveillance while the Australian Federal Police investigated his role in an alleged plot to import chemicals from the Netherlands to manufacture the methamphetamine ice.
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But on the final day of his committal hearing at Central Local Court yesterday, the Crown prosecutor, Hament Dhanji, conceded that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions' case was not strong enough to prove at least one of the three charges against Standen, and asked for more time so that evidence could be brought from the Netherlands.

The Crown claims, among other things, that Standen plotted to import a commercial quantity of pseudoephedrine.

"The Crown's case is that that charge, without the additional material, will fail," Mr Dhanji said.

Standen's barrister, Gordon Elliot, said the case against Standen should be dropped because the Crown had been given ample time to collect evidence against him and he had been in solitary confinement for eight months due to his former role as a leading police officer.

"The courts have had a long recognition of the old adage that justice delayed is justice denied," Mr Elliot said.

"Even if there is some kind of communication breakdown between the Commonwealth DPP and other agencies - I'm not saying it's their fault - but Mr Standen should not be disadvantaged."

The magistrate, Julie Huber, said it was not the Crown's fault that the material was not at the committal hearing. The DPP had asked authorities in the Netherlands to send material that would form part of its brief of evidence against Standen but could not control the speed with which that occurred. For that reason, she said, the DPP should be given a maximum of three weeks to produce further material, otherwise she might throw out the charge.

The Crown had suggested that if Ms Huber were to throw out the charge the DPP may proceed with an ex officio indictment against Standen, by which it could bypass the local court and go straight to the District Court.

Ms Huber said: "I'm not prepared to adjourn this matter for any period longer than three weeks. If the material is here longer than three weeks, so be it. If not, the matter will proceed."

Earlier, the court heard that Standen had presided over meetings with federal police and customs even as he was under investigation for allegedly conspiring to import drugs.

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