28 May 2024

Claims human rights were repeatedly breached in jail, alleged murderer's bail application hears

| Albert McKnight

Steve Fabriczy (right) arrives at the City Police station to be charged with the murder of Irma Palasics (left). Photos: Supplied, ACT Policing.

Detainees’ human rights have repeatedly been breached at Canberra’s prison since shortly after the facility opened in 2008, a court heard during the bail application for an alleged murderer.

Steve Fabriczy and Joseph Vekony are accused of forcing their way into Irma and Gregor Palasics’ home in McKellar on 6 November 1999 before the elderly couple were tied up and assaulted.

The two accused allegedly stole $30,000 cash and fled. Mr Palasics eventually freed himself from his bindings and discovered his 72-year-old wife dead in the hallway.

The pair were arrested in Melbourne in 2023 and charged with murder, to which they have pleaded not guilty and have been committed for trial.

Last week, the lawyers for Mr Fabriczy, who is also known as Istvan Imre Fabriczy, said he would make a bail application, partly as he would claim he was housed at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) in breach of the Human Rights Act as he was held alongside sentenced prisoners.

Detainees in custody on remand are not allowed to be housed with prisoners serving a sentence, unless under exceptional circumstances.

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On Tuesday (28 May), the ACT Supreme Court heard Mr Fabriczy had been housed with sentenced prisoners in the AMC’s cottages.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum raised information from a prison representative who had given evidence in an unrelated bail application for a different accused last week, which discussed the same issue.

She said the evidence suggested that while those in charge at the AMC were mindful of the prohibition of housing accused persons and sentenced prisoners together, as a matter of practice, this restriction has not been complied with since shortly after the facility opened.

In last week’s bail application, the chief justice agreed with the judge, who found that when an accused person was detained in contravention of their human rights, that was enough to establish the special or exceptional circumstances needed to grant them bail.

Joseph Vekony

Joseph Vekony was extradited to the ACT over the death of Irma Palasics. Photo: ACT Policing.

However, when it came to Mr Fabrcizy, Chief Justice McCallum also found that he was a flight risk.

The alleged murderer has dual Australian/Hungarian citizenship. During his bail application, Detective Sergeant Craig Marriott told the court that when he was arrested, police asked for his singular “passport”, and he gave them his Australian one. Then, during a police interview, he said he “didn’t know” whether he was a Hungarian citizen.

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However, the detective said the accused did have a Hungarian passport in the name of “Istvan”, and it was only later when police were making inquiries into whether or not he held one, that he said he would surrender it.

Defence barrister Jack Pappas argued that if his client had a “hidden plan” to abscond, then the last thing he would do would be to tell his lawyers where his passport was and hand it in.

Detective Sergeant Marriott also claimed Mr Fabriczy sent $215,000 to a Hungarian bank account in his name and had repeatedly said he wanted to retire soon and move back to Hungary.

The detective also said Mr Fabriczy and Mr Vekony were arrested after police had looked at about 300 potential suspects during the investigation into the murder over the last two decades.

The bail application was refused, and the matter was adjourned to 12 June. The court heard the case may be able to go to trial at the end of 2025.

Mr Vekony, 68, has also been remanded in custody. His case is also next before the courts on 12 June.

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