Tony Abbott's comments could prejudice future trial

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    Sydney terror raid: Legal community warns Tony Abbott's comments could prejudice future trial

    By political reporters Naomi Woodley and Andrew Greene
    Updated about an hour agoFri 13 Feb 2015, 7:26am
    PHOTO: Mohammad Kiad (left) and Omar Al-Kutobi are accused of plotting an imminent terrorist attack.(Supplied: Facebook)
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    MAP: Australia
    The Prime Minister's office says the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner gave Tony Abbott "prior consent" to directly quote in Parliament from evidence in a Sydney terrorism case, but some members of the legal community say it could still prejudice a future trial.
    On Thursday the Prime Minister read from a transcript of a video, which was seized when two men were arrested in Sydney earlier this week, and charged with plotting an imminent terrorist attack.
    A spokesman for Mr Abbott said "the Prime Minister quoted the translation with the prior consent of the Commissioner of the AFP, Andrew Colvin".
    President of the New South Wales Bar Association, Jane Needham SC, said public commentary about the case could have serious consequences for the legal process.
    "What could happen is that the court could find it impossible to have a jury empanelled who was not affected by the comments," she said.
    "And that could mean that the men could not receive a fair trial, because the jury had already made up their minds, or that their trials might be stayed, and that has happened in the past where comments made in Parliament have been the basis of a stay application later."
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    AUDIO: PM criticised for terrorism commentary, but says AFP Commissioner gave consent (AM)
    Ms Needham said police and prosecutors should be allowed to get on with their job.
    "Well I note that the Prime Minister says that he had the prior consent of the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, but the prosecutions of these men should be left, in the Association's view, to take their proper course, and not to have the kind of commentary that has been attached to the transcript of the film," she said.
    Prominent Australian barrister Robert Richter QC also said he believed the Prime Minister's comments could be prejudicial.
    "To make those sorts of inflammatory utterances is calculated to influence the judicial process and it's being done for a political purpose," he said.
    The information Mr Abbott read to Parliament is contained in the statement of facts police present to court as part of the case. That information has not yet been made public.
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