Independent MP Fraser Ellis claims parliamentary privilege to exclude documents from deception trial

Home Politics Independent MP Fraser Ellis claims parliamentary privilege to exclude documents from deception trial
Independent MP Fraser Ellis claims parliamentary privilege to exclude documents from deception trial

Key evidence in the trial of former Liberal South Australian state MP Fraser Ellis may not be admissible in court due to parliamentary privilege, his lawyer claims.

Mr Ellis was charged with 23 counts of deception last February over his alleged misuse of the Country Members Accommodation Allowance, following an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) investigation.

Mr Ellis is accused of making 78 fraudulent claims for the allowance, totalling more than $18,000 —between May 13, 2018, and June 12, 2020.

His trial was supposed to start in November last year but was delayed until after the state election — which saw the member for Narungga re-elected as an independent with almost 60 per cent of the vote after preferences.

Today, the trial was pushed back until August, due to issues with witness availability after the initial trial date clashed with a parliamentary sitting week.

The delay will also allow the court to determine what evidence will be admissible.

Parliamentary privilege gives MPs immunity from legal action when they say or write something in parliament when otherwise they could be sued or charged.

But in this case, it could be used to prevent key evidence — that is, the forms Mr Ellis filled out to claim the allowance — from being permitted in court.

Case could be dismissed without documents

All members of parliament were required to table a decade of claims in July 2020, following an exclusive ABC investigation into MP’s use of the allowance.

Mr Ellis’s lawyer, Sam Joyce, today told the Adelaide Magistrates Court that could render the documents inadmissible in court, due to parliamentary privilege.

Magistrate Simon Smart questioned how “essential” the documents were to the charges.

“If that [evidence] does attract some sort of privilege and cannot be used, the charge falls away, is that right?” he asked.

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