Stephen Stubbs, the former criminal lawyer convicted of fraud last year, was granted bail on Wednesday after spending nine days in prison since he was sentenced more than a month ago.
A jury found Stubbs, 64, guilty in December of defrauding the public legal service Legal Aid and a client’s mother of more than $29,000.
He accepted thousands in legal fees, without telling either Legal Aid or his client’s mother that the other was also funding the defence of his client, who was facing serious charges of conspiracy to murder.
On March 2, Justice John Burns convicted Stubbs and sentenced him to three years in jail, with one year to be served full time.
The same day, Stubbs was admitted to Calvary Hospital under guard. His defence lawyers lodged an appeal the next day.
At Calvary, Stubbs was diagnosed with conversion syndrome, which the court heard on Wednesday was a psychiatric condition that affects physical function – but did not have a physical basis.
Stubbs has complained of weakness in his left leg, and he appeared at court on Wednesday in a wheelchair. He has been housed in the Crisis Support Unit at the Hume prison.
He had returned to jail on March 27.
Stubbs’ health was an ongoing theme in his trial and sentencing, and the court has heard he suffered a heart attack in 2014.
Professor Michael Levy, who heads Justice Health, gave evidence at Stubbs’ bail application on Wednesday, saying the prisoner would receive treatment in jail equivalent to that in the community.
Justice Michael Elkaim asked Professor Levy whether a diagnosis of conversion syndrome necessarily excluded malingering, to which the doctor replied no, and said the two could co-exist.
The grounds of the appeal include that Stubbs had not received a fair trial, because he was forced to go on after his defence team withdrew from the case mid-trial, and then forced to go on after Stubbs was admitted to hospital, also mid-trial.
Stubbs’ has argued the sentence was manifestly excessive.
On Wednesday, Stubbs applied for bail pending his appeal, on the grounds he couldn’t obtain medical treatments in prison, he needed to prepare for the appeal, organise his affairs, including selling property to fund the appeal, concerns for his children, and the management of his property and livestock, and time served.
The prosecution opposed his release, and called evidence from Professor Levy and a police informant to rebut the grounds for bail.
The police officer told the court he had spoken to the RSPCA, who told him there were no concerns for the animals’ welfare, and that the children were being looked after by their mother.
The judge found none bar the last ground warranted release.
But if Stubbs’ appeal was heard as expected in August or November in the ACT Court of Appeal sittings, the former lawyer would have by then served six to eight months of his sentence.
“In my view that’s sufficient for me to find there’s an exceptional circumstance and there should be a grant of bail,” Justice Elkaim said on Wednesday. “I do not accept any of the other basis.”
He imposed conditions, including that Stubbs report twice weekly to City Police Station, and that he live on the property in Goulburn.
He imposed further conditions, that Stubbs progress his appeal with due diligence, and attend all court dates unless legally represented.