It’s not every day that the DPP issues a media statement telling the world he is personally reviewing a case his office is prosecuting. But then the case of Dr Haneef is no ordinary one.
That Damien Bugg QC, the Commonwealth DPP, is rolling up his sleeves to examine the case against Dr Haneef is a welcome breakthrough. The way the AFP, Queensland Police and their legal advisers were dealing with Dr Haneef has undermined confidence in the legal system.
It has been a case in which there has been error after error, leak after leak, and appalling political interference by the Howard government.
What Mr Bugg will no doubt do is examine the evidence against Dr Haneef to see if the charge against him – which is being upgraded to from a charge of recklessly supporting a terrorist organization to one of intentionally supporting such an organization – can stick.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Part of the answer to that question will depend on whether or not the AFP/Queensland Police investigation into this case is so flawed that much of the evidence obtained will not be admissible in court.
For example, can Dr Haneef’s diary be used in evidence given that material with the names of terror suspects in the UK written on it by investigators was found in the diary?
And then there is the question of the conduct of members of Mr Bugg’s own office. Crikey last week raised this issue in the context of the investigation by The Australian’s Hedley Thomas who found that material in affidavits sworn by police officers about what Dr Haneef had told them in his first record of interview, was not accurate.
Did the DPP lawyers’ responsible for the filing of these affidavits check the primary source material being relied upon in the affidavits themselves, or merely rely on a police officer’s assertion that it was accurate?
So what can emerge from Mr Bugg’s review? He can reshape the case so as to give the State the best possible chance of securing a conviction against Dr Haneef, or he can withdraw the charges.
The political pressure on Mr Bugg will be intense because the Howard government has turned Dr Haneef’s case into a political circus. If Mr Bugg decides to drop charges you can expect he will face a very unhappy Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.
Whatever happens, with this review Mr Bugg has the opportunity to restore some integrity and order to Dr Haneef’s case. And most importantly, Mr Bugg can ensure that, unlike his political masters, he is interested in giving Dr Haneef a fair hearing.