It has been nine months since the Lindt Cafe tragedy, but details of the events leading up to December 15, 2014 are still being uncovered by the inquest into the incident.
One of the most frequently asked questions at the time of the siege was: how on earth did Man Haron Monis manage to get bail?
Indeed, Monis was on bail for three separate charges, including accessory to the murder of his former wife.
The inquest began in January this year, and in June the Coroner decided it was in the public interest for people to know why Monis was on bail despite facing several serious charges.
During the inquest, the lawyer for the family of deceased siege victim Katrina Dawson blasted the solicitor for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who had appeared at Monis’ application for bail in respect of the charge of being an accessory to his former wife’s murder. That solicitor, whose name has been suppressed, admitted making fundamental mistakes when handling the bail hearing.
This solicitor, who made the application in December 2013, was brand new to the job – he had only started working at the DPP two months earlier, and had never done a bail application before.
Astonishingly, he admitted he completely ignored the fact that Monis was already on bail for sending offensive letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers; a crucial omission.
He also ignored significant evidence, including an incriminating witness statement that had just been taken. Next, he failed to make submissions to the court that Monis was a flight risk, or even a danger to the community. The inquiry heard that these incomprehensible omissions contributed to Monis being granted conditional bail.
The DPP solicitor stated that at the time “I was satisfied to myself that I was able to present the most cogent case that I could”, although counsel for the family of siege victim Tori Johnson said that the case was “screaming out for review.”
One of the police officers involved in Monis’ investigation, Detective Melanie Staples, said that she was “furious” at the DPP solicitor for not presenting all of the facts to the Magistrate.
Could Monis’ Bail Have Been Reviewed?
Monis was granted bail under the old Bail Act 1978.
The new, much stricter Bail Act 2013 came into operation on 20 March 2014 – 4 months after Monis was granted bail under the old Bail Act and a full 9 months before the siege.
Under the law, the DPP could have applied for Monis’ bail to be revoked (cancelled) under the new Bail Act at any time, but it never did.
Indeed, Monis posted threats to the “US and its allies” on his social media pages just days before the siege – which were an extra reason to refuse bail – but no application was made by the DPP to revoke bail.
“Soft” Bail Laws?
These findings seriously challenge the idea that Monis was granted bail because bail laws are too soft – something that ignorant radio shock-jocks screamed ad nauseam to the public for months following the siege.
As stated, the strict new Bail Act NSW was there for the DPP to use at any time – they simply failed to take advantage of it.
Can I Watch the Proceedings?
Anyone who wants to watch the inquiry can register to do so. You can attend more than once, but you will need to register again each time. The registration desk if located on ground floor at the Downing Centre Courthouse. You will need to bring photo ID when registering.
Registration opens at 8:30am and the court starts at 10am.
Social media and mobile phones are banned from the courtroom – and some parts of the inquest may be subject to non-publication orders, or even held in closed court, without the public being allowed in.
The inquest is expected to end next year and the findings will be delivered by the State Coroner.