Justice James Douglas was commenting on submissions from the counsellor’s barrister that her sessions with Baden-Clay and his wife, Allison, were confidential.
“I regard the proceedings of the criminal courts of Australia as very significant proceedings,” Justice Douglas told a pre-trial hearing.
“I would have thought it would require very strong words to prevent evidence being called.
“To construe an act like this, to say evidence isn’t admissible when somebody’s on trial for murder, is quite frankly, in my mind, bizarre.
“A person on trial for the most serious crime really should be able to call evidence or have evidence called that is relevant.
“To construe the act this way, to try to say it’s actually in the public interest not to, I find very odd.”
Baden-Clay, who is due to face trial in June for the murder of his wife, sat silently in the dock for yesterday’s hearing. Clean-shaven and dressed in a dark suit, he was flanked by security guards and did not have his usual family support.
He reported his wife missing from their Brookfield home last April and her body was discovered under a bridge 10 days later.
Justice Douglas has been asked to rule on whether evidence from Relationships Australia counsellor Carmel Ritchie was admissible in the trial.
Barrister George Kalimnios, for Relationships Australia, argued the counsellor could legally keep her sessions with the Baden-Clays confidential.
But the prosecution and defence yesterday both told the court they wanted the evidence to be included and argued it was admissible.
Prosecutor Glen Cash, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, told the court police executed a search warrant on Relationships Australia Queensland on May 11 last year.
Baden-Clay had a session with Ms Ritchie on April 16 last year, just four days before he reported his wife missing from the Brookfield home. His wife had a separate session with Ms Ritchie immediately after his, and had a previous session on March 27.
Mr Cash told the court any public interest in confidentiality was overwhelmed by the need for access to the full evidence for the murder trial.
Concerns about discouraging openness in counselling sessions had to be put behind the interests of allowing the trial, he said.
Concerns about effects on future counselling sessions could be “overstated” as counsellors could only be called to give evidence in a very small number of cases, he said.
Michael Byrne QC, for Baden-Clay, said a murder trial had far greater public interest than confidentially for counselling sessions.
Justice Douglas said he would make his decision known at a future date.
Outside court, Baden-Clay’s solicitor Peter Shields said: “There won’t be any comment at all until the end of the trial.”
UPDATE (Thanks to JJE).
Developments on the BC case in court this morning. Mr Business-As-Usual was in court today, represented by the very capable Mr Shields. The counsellor has been ordered to appear as a witness. Although not mentioned in the relevant CM or BT articles, it has been said previously that BC’s legal team were not opposing the counsellor giving evidence… I wonder if that is the case now… (keep in mind his legal team has changed). A glance at the ruling and reporting indicates this is still the case. And previously the counsellor – through her barrister – has argued that the sessions were ‘confidential’… Thankfully this judge has sensibly ruled otherwise
Reveal all, I say… Reveal all and let everyone see for themselves…