Mark Speakman rejects Ray Hadley assertion over magistrate who granted bail to alleged killer

Mark Speakman. Picture: Fairfax Media

Mark Speakman. Picture: Fairfax Media

Update

Broadcaster Ray Hadley has egg on his face after claiming Attorney-General Mark Speakman had a conflict of interest.

Hadley said a magistrate at the centre of a bail controversy was believed to have been on the NSW Liberal Party panel that preselected Mr Speakman for the seat of Cronulla in 2010.

Mr Speakman said in a statement on Friday afternoon, "I am informed by Liberal Party headquarters that now magistrate Brett Thomas was not a member of State Executive in 2010".

"The Liberal Party has confirmed that Mr Thomas was on neither the 160 member strong panel that preselected me for the 2011 election nor the similar panel for the 2015 election," he said.

"I consider there is no conflict that would prevent me from considering the bail matter relating to the tragic events at Glendale this week.

"However to ensure public confidence, I will refer the matter to another minister."

Earlier

Attorney-General Mark Speakman has denied having a conflict of interest that would stop him considering whether a magistrate erred in granting bail to a man who allegedly stabbed to death the mother of his child.

However, Mr Speakman said "to ensure public confidence", he would refer the matter to another minister.

Broadcaster Ray Hadley claimed the conflict of interest following the stabbing death of Gabriella Thompson, 27, in the Lake Macquarie area on Wednesday and the subsequent fatal shooting by police of the only suspect.

Tarari Walton, 21, who was shot dead, allegedly tried to attack police with a hunting knife when he was cornered on Thursday.

The couple are believed to have had an off-and-on-again relationship for several years, but were not together at the time of the incident.

Hadley said on Friday Walton was on strict conditional bail at the time, after stabbing another inmate while serving a two-year jail sentence for other crimes.

Magistrate Brett Thomas had granted Walton bail, allowing him to be released into the public, Hadley said.

Hadley claimed Mr Thomas was believed to have been on the NSW Liberal Party panel that preselected Mr Speakman for the seat of Cronulla in 2010.

Before becoming a magistrate, Mr Thomas was a criminal lawyer with a practice in Sutherland Shire.

He was a Liberal member of Sutherland Shire Council from 1995 until 1999 and contested the seats of Menai and Miranda for the Liberal Party in the 1999, 2003 and 2013 state elections.

​Mr Speakman said he was informed by Liberal Party headquarters that Mr Thomas was not a member of State Executive in 2010, the year Mr Speakman was preselected.

"The Liberal Party is still searching its archives to check whether Mr Thomas was on the 160 member strong panel that preselected me," he said.

"I don’t consider there is any conflict that would prevent me from considering the matter.

"However to ensure public confidence, I will refer the matter to another minister."

Mr Thomas was appointed a magistrate in 2016 by then Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton after public recruitment, including newspaper advertisements, interviews and recommendations by an independent panel headed by Judge Graeme Henson, Chief Magistrate.

Mr Thomas was one of eleven magistrates whose appointments were announced in November 2016.