Not long ago Alexandra “Xana” Kamitsis might have been described in the media as a “glamorous socialite” or “highly respected businesswoman.”
Her profile at Ruby Connection describes her as a woman “recognised for her natural charm, elegant style and business savvy approach … Xana is extremely well connected within Darwin both politically and locally.”
Her current businesses ventures include Latitude Travel, a highly successful niche travel and event management company for high-end business and corporate executives with clients from all over the world.
Late yesterday afternoon Justice Mildren published his decision in The Queen v Alexandra Kamitsis. Following her committal in the Darwin Magistrate’s Court earlier this year on 132 counts Xana has been indicted in the Supreme Court on 30 “representative” counts of obtaining a benefit for herself or another by deception and a number of counts of stealing pleaded as alternatives to most of the deception charges.
As Justice Mildren noted, the particulars of the obtain benefit by deception counts that Xana faces:
… mostly relate to an allegation that the defendant, who was the principal of the travel agency business called Latitude 69 Pty Ltd presented invoices in relation to a pensioner concession entitlement for amounts which were not the proper amount payable for the pensioners’ travel concession.
In relation to three of the counts it is alleged that the persons concerned had not sought payment of a pensioner travel concession.
Justice Mildren’s decision did not concern Xana’s substantive trial–that will start in mid-November–but related to an application by Xana to suppress media reporting of her name and the publication of identifying material, including photos and footage taken at the time of her arrest in November 2014.
In support of the suppression application Xana’s barrister John Tippett pointed to a number of articles published in the local journal of record the NT News between November 2014 and as late of the day of the hearing on Friday last week.
Justice Mildren resisted the temptation to adopt Tippett’s more florid language used to describe the offending pieces–for that we’ll have to rely on the subject of Tippett’s objections.
The NT News reported that Tippett told the Court there had been an “overkill” of stories since Xana’s arrest.
He said the repeated use of video footage and images of the socialite in handcuffs was damaging her right to a fair trial. Mr Tippett said media reporting of Kamitsis had been “completely over the top” and could “deeply prejudice” a jury.
He made particular reference to the NT News and political reporter Christopher Walsh, who he accused of having a “fetish” for Kamitsis … “We’re dealing with journalist lunatics.”
Tippett told the Court that the NT News articles spoke for themselves and demonstrated baseless allegations unconnected with the present charges. Tippett wanted “a small window” to ensure that Xana gets a fair trial in November.
Justice Mildren noted that an examination of the articles revealed allegations:
… that the defendant has been connected with the resignation of the former Commissioner of Police; it has been alleged that the former Commissioner was forced to resign after he had had improperly sought to interfere in the police investigation into the original charges which were brought in the committal proceedings; that the Commissioner of Police had an improper relationship with the accused; that the accused had provided “benefits” to the Police Commissioner; that another senior police officer had been suspended; that the defendant had been involved in a corrupt arrangement with a former ministerial chief of staff against whom corruption charges have now been brought; and that the defendant has also recently been charged with three counts of corruptly giving a benefit and one count of criminal deception.
He referred to submissions from counsel for the ABC, the NT News and Channel 9 that argued the quality of the journalism was not irresponsible and was fair and proper. The judge was having none of that, noting:
In my opinion, Mr Roper’s submission understates the overall effect of the articles published in the NT News.
After consideration of the applicable law and observing that most, if not all, of the material the subject of the articles would be inadmissible as evidence at her trial, Justice Mildren noted that in order for Xana’s application to succeed she needed to show that there was a proven substantial or real risk that the material would seriously interfere with the administration of her trial and thus constitute a contempt of Court.
He found that the evidence before him did not meet that test and Xana’s application should be dismissed.
But before the “lunatics” in the Darwin press pack could toast a victory for press freedom, Justice Mildren, noting that the trial is close handy, issued a stern warning to the media to be “very careful and circumspect” about publishing any material about which Xana had complained.
There should be no further publication of photographs of the defendant showing her in handcuffs or being placed in the back of a paddy wagon. There should be no reference to the other outstanding charges which are being held in abeyance pending the outcome of these proceedings. There should be no suggestions that the defendant is the centrepiece of a web of deception or anything like that. There should be no reference to other suggestions of a scandalous kind and in particular as to the defendant’s relationship with the former Police Commissioner, ministers or former ministers of the Crown or their staffers, there should be no attempt to link the defendant with suggestions of travel rorts by other travel agencies.
Xana didn’t get her suppression order but, as Tippett told the media outside Court, “This is a very significant warning to the press that my client is entitled to a fair trial.”
I mark that as a close run draw.
For those interested in the rise and rise of the suppression order, particularly in Victorian Courts, this recent piece by the ABC’s Liz Hobday on a recent Melbourne Press Club debate provides some fascinating background.
Photo: Google. https://profiles.google.com/112771618702248950860/about