Bell trial to stay in SA District Court

SA MP Troy Bell will go on trial in the District Court over theft and dishonesty offences.
SA MP Troy Bell will go on trial in the District Court over theft and dishonesty offences.

A South Australian MP facing theft and dishonesty charges will go to trial in the District Court after a move to have the case bumped to the Supreme Court was rejected.

Prosecutors had asked for the trial of independent MP Troy Bell to be heard in the higher jurisdiction because of the legal and factual complexity of the case.

They also asked for the trial to be moved to Adelaide, believing the courthouse facilities in Mt Gambier, where the alleged offending occurred, were simply inadequate.

The court heard there were additional concerns surrounding choosing a jury in Mt Gambier, considering Mr Bell was the elected representative for more than half the people that the jury pool could be drawn from.

However, defence counsel argued that the case could adequately be managed by a District Court judge and jury.

It was also argued that moving the case to Adelaide would cause Bell added anxiety, inconvenience and expense.

District Court Judge Peter Brebner has reserved his decision on the location of the trial but said it would be heard by the District Court.

He said the case was not likely to be as complex as suggested.

Bell has pleaded not guilty to 20 counts of theft and six counts of aggravated dishonestly dealing with documents.

The charges related to the alleged misappropriation of about $800,000 but the court was told that rose to $1.45 million, if additional uncharged offending was taken into account.

The charges followed an investigation by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption and relate to a period before Bell entered state parliament in his previous role as an independent provider of educational programs.

Prosecutors have accused him of overcharging, and falsifying invoices, accounts and meeting minutes.

Bell was first elected as a Liberal in 2014 but quit the party after his arrest in August 2017.

He was returned to parliament at the 2018 state election after contesting the poll as an independent, securing 60 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

Bell has vowed to "vigorously" defend the allegations.

Australian Associated Press