Cranston siblings win variation of bail conditions on ‘humane’ grounds

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 18: Adam Cranston leaves Sydney Police centre after being released on bail over a tax fraud on May 18, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media)Bail conditions preventing two of former Australian Taxation Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston’s children speaking to each other pending a criminal trial over an alleged $144 million tax fraud have been relaxed on “humane” grounds after the Local Court ruled existing orders were too strict.

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Adam and Lauren Cranston are among nine people charged over an alleged tax fraud scheme the Australian Federal Police claim skimmed millions in PAYG tax through a web of payroll administration companies.

On Thursday, lawyers for the Cranston siblings appeared in the Downing Centre Local Court seeking changes to bail conditions to allow them to attend family functions and meet each other’s children.

Lauren Cranston gave birth to her first child, a daughter, on July 28 while Mr Cranston’s wife Elizabeth is due to give birth later this year.

Greg Walsh, for Lauren Cranston, told the court his client wanted to have “contact with her brother … basically on humane grounds, especially having regard to the recent birth”.

Mr Cranston’s lawyer Penny Musgrave said the siblings’ babies “are only going to be four months apart”.

Ms Musgrave said it was an “emotive submission” but the family did not want to miss “first photo opportunities” and the infant cousins were “hopefully going to spend the rest of their lives being very close”.

It was “onerous” and “completely disproportionate” for the court to say “these people can’t get together as a family”, Ms Musgrave said.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions opposed the change on a range of grounds, including the risk that witnesses could be “negatively influenced” by the co-accused or evidence could be destroyed.

Prosecutor Suzanne Martinez said the birth of the babies “doesn’t change those concerns” and the siblings could see the respective children in the company of other relatives.

But Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson said: “It’s going to be difficult to move a little baby away from a mother. At the end of the day, you’ve got legitimate concerns but to have no contact at all is a very big thing when you’re looking at a 2019 trial.”

“To cut off contact altogether is probably not warranted,” she said.

New conditions were imposed allowing the siblings contact on Saturdays at one of six family homes, provided at least two members of their immediate family were present.

In addition, the pair may attend family events “such as weddings, christenings, birthdays, births of children … and funerals”.

Ms Atkinson also agreed to release Mr Cranston’s wife Elizabeth from a $100,000 surety to guarantee compliance with his bail conditions, leaving a $200,000 surety provided by his grandmother from her superannuation fund.

She said the surety provided by Mr Cranston’s grandmother was sufficient to ward against any flight risk.

Mr Walsh said Mr Cranston snr and his wife Robyn had divorced and the siblings had a “fairly close relationship”, although they “had their ups and downs”.

Ms Cranston would not under any circumstances discuss the allegations at the heart of the case with her brother, Mr Walsh said.

Sydney tax lawyer Dev Menon, who has been charged over the alleged scheme, also sought changes to bail conditions to allow him to speak directly to Adam Cranston. The application was refused.

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