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Ex-MP's blackmail charge a 'malicious abuse of process'

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Blackmail charges against a former Labor MP are “malicious” and an “abuse of process” instigated by Opposition leader Peter Malinauskas to “shut down” a parliamentary inquiry, a court has heard – with Annabel Digance insisting she has no case to answer.

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Digance was arrested in April, along with her husband Greg, accused of attempting to blackmail state ALP leader Malinauskas – who the former MP’s lawyer argues should be required to attend court for cross-examination.

Charges submitted to the Adelaide Magistrates Court by police at the time alleged that “between the 12th day of February 2020 and the 28th day of March 2020” the pair “menaced Peter Bryden Malinauskas intending to get him to submit to a demand”.

That alleged demand relates to a bid to revive Annabel Digance’s stalled political career, which ended when she lost the southern suburbs seat of Elder to Liberal Carolyn Power at the 2018 state election.

The Digances were arrested shortly after Annabel went public with claims she had objected to a “racist” Labor flyer distributed as part of her campaign for Elder in 2014, saying she had been silenced by party officials.

Her claims prompted the Marshall Government to successfully move for a parliamentary inquiry into “claims of bullying and harassment within the State Labor Party”, but the committee was blocked after crossbench MPs determined it should not proceed with the blackmail matter before the courts.

The Digances were expected to enter a plea today, but instead barrister Robert Cameron, for Annabel, told magistrate Michelle Sutcliffe: “In our respectful submission there is no case to answer.”

“This prosecution instigated by Mr Malinauskas is a malicious prosecution,” Cameron told the court.

“It’s a collateral abuse of process, in that it seeks to shut down a select committee hearing of this parliament that was voted on in March this year.”

He said he would be “submitting special reasons why Mr Malinauskas should be ordered to attend court” for cross-examination.

After prosecutors argued they were “not on notice of any no case to answer submission”, Sutcliffe ordered the matter adjourned for a further hearing next month.

Greg Digance had separate representation today, with barrister Jon Lister also seeking an adjournment as he had “only recently been brought on board”.

“I’ve only been instructed in this matter since the middle of last month [and] there’s some complexity to it,” he told Sutcliffe.

Neither the Digances nor their lawyers commented outside court.

In response to inquiries, Malinauskas said in a statement: “Annabel and Greg Digance are currently before courts facing serious charges and therefore I cannot comment.”

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