Former barrister becomes a defendant

FROM barrister to barista, John Hart managed to put his past as a defender of petty criminals behind him to reach the summit of Engadine’s culinary scene.

He emerged from an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2010 to buy the favourably reviewed Jack of Harts and Jude cafe in an arcade off the Old Princes Highway last year.

But the allegations that were the subject of the ICAC inquiry – judge shopping, false promises to clients and the extraction of a dubious payment – are nipping at his heels.

The ICAC made adverse findings against Mr Hart and sent the brief of evidence to the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Police have now charged Mr Hart with 11 counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

They allege that in 2008 and 2009, Mr Hart engineered to have the cases of three clients moved to courts in which the magistrate was perceived as more lenient.

First, he allegedly moved charges of mid-range drink driving and failing to stop at a red light against Bradley Wheaton from the Downing Centre Local Court to Camden Local Court, providing allegedly false testimonials to the court that his client was working and living at Oakdale.

Then he allegedly moved a mid-range drink driving charge against Jessica Smith from Sutherland Local Court to Wagga Wagga Local Court, where he allegedly falsely told the court she worked locally as a special needs teacher to disabled children.

He allegedly also succeeded in moving proceedings against Benjamin Bleckman, who was charged with mid-range drink diving, from Bankstown Local Court to Sutherland Local Court, and allegedly lied to the court that Mr Bleckman had lost his Saturday job and moved back in with his parents in Engadine.

Police allege that in each of these cases, Mr Hart thought he would achieve a more favourable outcome for his clients in distant courts.

Mr Hart’s dealings with another client, Jason Kelly, were even more fruitful, according to court documents.

Mr Hart allegedly told Mr Kelly that he could make the charges against him disappear if Mr Kelly were to furnish him with a sum of money, which would be forwarded to an officer of the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Although the officer had no knowledge of any such promise having being made, and never contemplated accepting such a payment, Mr Hart nevertheless obtained $12,000 from his client, according to court documents.

Mr Hart has not entered a plea, and his case in the Downing Centre Local Court has been adjourned to December 12.

Mr Hart declined to comment.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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