Charges dismissed over man who refused to call AFP

A witness in the Ben Roberts-Smith libel case has been charged with obstructing a fired Commonwealth official after a judge said his refusal to turn over a phone to federal investigators was the act of a “drunken fool”.

The man, known by the alias Person X, was at a Sydney hotel in mid-2022 after testifying in federal court when investigators arrived with two warrants and asked for his phone.

On Monday, Judge Miranda Moody said the man had been “extremely rude” to the officers and had verbally abused them and responded with hostility when the officers were only polite.

Person X’s attorney, Rob Ranken, told the Downing Center Magistrates’ Court that the man had been drinking after the stressful situation of testifying in court.

He said the phone belonged to the man’s employer and he was reluctant to hand over anything he didn’t own without consulting a lawyer. Ranken said his client had repeatedly said he wanted to speak to a lawyer in the hotel lobby, but that it reached a “dead end” because investigators wanted him in a room.

“Clearly, communication had broken down, if I may put it mildly,” Ranken said.

He said the situation lasted about 10 minutes before his client was arrested.

A brief clip was played to the court of the man chatting to officers in front of an elevator as he appeared to be moving around them to get to the open doors. The officers stood in his way until the doors closed.

Moody said the man acted “like a drunken fool” and “made a funny nuisance of himself, I suggest.”

Ranken said the magistrate was “quite right” and Person X asked his attorney to apologize to the court for his conduct, which effectively wasted the court’s time. Charges dismissed over man who refused to call AFP

Callan Tansill

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