ICAC to front High Court

The legal battle between leading crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC and the ICAC will continue in the High Court next year, with the commission being granted special leave to appeal.

In a contentious decision handed down by the Court of Appeal earlier this month, the corruption watchdog was told it did not have the power to proceed with its probe into allegations the silk attempted to pervert the course of justice.

The ICAC immediately announced it would seek special leave to appeal as a matter of urgency, saying the ruling “fundamentally affects the scope of its powers to hold investigations into corrupt conduct”.

I am innocent, declares defiant Obeid

On Friday, the High Court granted the application and set the matter down for March.

During the brief application, Ms Cunneen’s barrister Arthur Moses SC took a swipe at the ICAC’s statement released shortly after last Friday’s appeal decision.

The corruption watchdog announced it would be holding off filing reports into Operations Credo and Spicer due to the judgement’s implications.

Operation Credo examined the Obeid-linked Australian Water Holdings while Operation Spicer’s investigations uncovered the depths of the donations scandal engulfing the NSW Liberal Party.

Mr Moses said the claim the appeal judgment affected ICAC’s “whole being” was “overkill”.

“(The ICAC) is effectively putting its pen down in respect to writing reports … it’s not clear why it has chosen to do that,” Mr Moses said.

But the commission’s barrister Jeremy Kirk SC said it needed the matter to be dealt with as soon as possible and that, so far, the ruling about its powers to investigate Ms Cunneen had been split “two-two”.

Justice Clifton Hoeben had initially ruled the ICAC did have the power to hold public hearings into the silk.

On appeal, two of three justices found in favour of Ms Cunneen.

The prosecutor is accused of advising her son Stephen Wyllie’s girlfriend Sophia Tilley to fake chest pains at a car crash scene in a bid to avoid police officers obtaining her blood alcohol level.

Ms Cunneen, who describes the accusations as malicious, has argued ICAC was acting beyond its jurisdiction and there was no suggestion the allegations involved her conduct as a crown prosecutor.


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