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Deputy Premier could be called to give evidence in Renewal SA case

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UPDATED | Attorney-General Vickie Chapman and the state’s deputy Director of Public Prosecutions could be called to give evidence as prosecutors seek to revive a trial against former Renewal SA boss John Hanlon.

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The former top bureaucrat’s lawyers will seek to subpoena any communications between the Attorney’s office and that of the DPP – as well as the state’s ICAC, which initiated the investigation – relating to the process by which fresh charges came to be laid against Hanlon in the district court.

An earlier case against Hanlon – and his fellow former executive Georgina Vasilevski – collapsed in the magistrates court in June when prosecutor Peter Longson conceded the DPP’s office did not have sufficient evidence to prove their guilt.

They had been charged over allegedly misusing travel entitlements relating to a 2017 work trip to Melbourne, while Hanlon had also faced charges relating to a separate trip to Berlin.

But the trial collapsed after Labor frontbencher Stephen Mullighan – who was the agency’s then-minister in 2017 – told the magistrates court he had authorised the travel.

Two months later, however, the DPP filed an ‘ex officio’ action in the district court seeking to pursue charges against Hanlon of abuse of public office and dishonestly dealing with documents, relating to the same trip to Berlin.

Today, Hanlon pleaded not guilty to all charges, as his lawyer David Edwardson QC told Judge Michael Durrant he would be seeking a “permanent stay” of proceedings, “on the grounds of an abuse of process”.

That pre-trial application, he said, will be based on evidence being sought by subpoena.

InDaily revealed earlier this year that DPP Martin Hinton  QC had recused himself from the matter, citing “a conflict of interest in the matter [because] at the time that he was the Solicitor-General, Mr Hinton had close dealings with Mr Hanlon in relation to the Gillman matter”.

His deputy, Sandi McDonald SC, took carriage of the case, with Edwardson telling court today she “was the person who signed the indictment which was dismissed by the magistrate”.

“She was the manager of Peter Longson, who was the prosecutor who appeared in the Magistrates Court at the time the original charges were dismissed,” he said.

“We intend to issue a subpoena to ICAC, the DPP and the Attorney-General’s Department to produce all communications that took place in connection with the ex officio indictment.”

Edwardson argued that “Ms McDonald will almost certainly have to recuse herself” as “she and Mr Longson may have to give evidence”.

“The Attorney-General herself may have to give evidence as well,” he said.

The trial is likely to also be delayed until a separate High Court hearing is held, likely early next year, into theft charges against independent and former Liberal MP Troy Bell, who is challenging the case against him arguing that the ICAC investigation was mishandled.

The outcome of that appeal could have flow-on effects for other matters relating to ICAC investigations.

If Chapman is forced to take the stand, it would be another unwanted distraction for the deputy premier in the lead-up to the March 2022 state election.

She has already this week retained prominent QC Frances Nelson to represent her in a parliamentary inquiry into claims she had a conflict of interest and may have misled parliament in relation to her decision to reject a proposed port development on Kangaroo Island, where she owns property.

Chapman this week described that inquiry as a “kangaroo court” and a “witch-hunt”.

In June, she denied a separate conflict of interest in the Hanlon matter, saying: “I am satisfied that there is no conflict of interest on my part in regards to this matter.”

She told parliament after the original case collapsed that she had sought a briefing from the DPP “as to what action he is proposing in relation to this matter”.

“The fact that a matter may have concluded in the Magistrates Court doesn’t prohibit the DPP – independent as the DPP is – from taking some other action in another court,” Chapman told parliament at the time.

“So they are matters which, I am advised, at this point he is considering.”

Asked to respond to today’s developments, her office told InDaily: “As the matter is before the courts, the Attorney-General will not be providing any comment.”

InDaily also sought comment from the DPP’s office, which responded that “the question is for Mr Edwardson to answer”.

Hanlon was asked outside court about what the Attorney would be quizzed on if she took the stand, replying: “We’ve said everything we’re going to say in court at this time about what we’re doing.”

Asked for his reaction when the charges against him were re-laid, he said: “Disgusted.”

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