Mammoth bundle of evidence delays aviation case

ACCUSED PILOT: Josh Hoch faces more than 340 charges in Mount Isa Magistrate's Court.
ACCUSED PILOT: Josh Hoch faces more than 340 charges in Mount Isa Magistrate's Court.

The charter pilot accused of sabotaging his rivals’ planes applied for changes to his bail conditions this week.

Josh Hoch, 32, made the 10 hour drive from his home town of Alpha to Mount Isa on Wednesday to apply for changes to his bail agreement. 

Bail conditions set by Magistrate Stephen Guttridge in January of last year meant Mr Hoch was not allowed to enter an airport and was required to report to police twice a week.

Defence barrister John Ribbands pleaded with Magistrate James Morton for more than an hour on Wednesday morning to allow the former pilot to fly as a passenger. 

Mr Ribband argued bail restrictions were preventing Mr Hoch from earning a living. 

Mr Hoch, who is a diesel fitter by trade, operates Flying Fitters, a company which services remote mining communities. 

The defence team argued that Mr Hoch would not be doing any mechanical work on the planes, but flying as passenger to remote mining towns to service trucks and cars. 

The police prosecutor opposed the change to bail conditions due to the seriousness of the charges, which each hold a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. 

Despite the best efforts of Mr Ribbands, Magistrate James Morton upheld the decision not to allow Mr Hoch to fly. 

He did however approve a change which will now allow the accused to travel on commercial flights, as long as each trip is flagged with local police. 

The Magistrate also removed reporting requirements from the bail conditions. 

Mr Hoch’s defence team also accused the prosecution of impeding upon procedural fairness. 

The brief of evidence complied by the prosecution is 49,000 pages long and contains “completely irrelevant material”, according to Mr Ribbands. 

In August of last year the prosecution was given eight weeks to detail which evidence applied to which charges, to allow Mr Hoch to understand what crimes he had been accused of. 

Eight months later, the defence team still does not have a clear way to navigate the thousands of pages of evidence. 

The case has been adjourned to June 13 to allow the prosecution to better organise the evidence.

Mr Hoch has been charged with 342 offences – mostly fraud related. 

Five of those charges are more serious allegations of deliberating tampering with airplanes. 

Police allege glass beads and paste were found in the engines of planes belonging to Mr Hoch’s business rivals. 

Mr Hoch’s lawyer said the was “not one scrap of forensic evidence trying Mr Hoch to the charges” and the case was “circumstantial”. 

Mr Hoch is due to appear again before the Mount Isa Magistrates Court on June 13.