'Wilful blindness': Canberra criminal lawyer on trial accused of fraud addresses jury – The Sydney Morning Herald

A Canberra criminal lawyer on trial accused of fraud has suggested the woman he allegedly defrauded suffered from “wilful blindness”.

Stephen Raymond Stubbs, 63, who is representing himself, has faced trial in the ACT Supreme Court over the last two weeks on 15 charges, accused of dishonestly taking $30,000 from a client’s mother and $4000 from Legal Aid ACT.

In his closing submissions to the jury, he said he did not challenge that he accepted money from both Anne Duffy and Legal Aid.

“The issue is, what was the money for?” he asked the jury.

He said much of the work he did for the Duffys was for conferences and advice on other private legal matters not before the courts – matters outside the grant of funding.

He said it was for bail applications unfunded by Legal Aid. He said he appeared in court more than 27 times for Ms Duffy’s son Alexander Duffy in the months between November 2008 and October 2009, and that included 11 bail applications.

He said he was doing his best to reconstruct what had happened seven years ago, but said he did not have the files and so couldn’t say for sure for what kind of work he had invoiced Ms Duffy.

He asked where the Duffy files were and why they weren’t in court. 

“Files don’t just disappear,” he said. “Where are the files?”

It is Stubbs’ case that the files were left at the offices where he worked when he stopped practicing in 2010; the Crown says the man who took over management of the practice never saw them.

While the Crown said Stubbs deceived both Legal Aid and Ms Duffy, he said he never told Ms Duffy that her son did not have legal aid.

He said the Duffys must have known there was a grant of legal aid, and if not they may have been suffering from “wilful blindness”.

“Just because you failed to acknowledge what was going on, doesn’t make it a crime,” he said. 

“You can’t choose to ignore a bill or a problem.”

He pointed to 19 letters sent to the Duffys by Legal Aid, both to the family home and the Belconnen Remand Centre when Duffy was in custody, and asked how likely it was they weren’t opened.

For the fraud charges as against Legal Aid, Stubbs said Duffy had been charged with further assaults in February, and that these charges went unfunded by Legal Aid until May 2009, when the service retroactively granted funding.

“I did the work I was paid for,” he said. “I did not double-bill for work.”

He denied Ms Duffy had given him $5000 in cash in 2008.

The jury will return on Thursday to hear Justice John Burns give his final directions, before they retire to consider their verdicts.

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