DECADES after they were exonerated by the State, the Mickelberg brothers are fighting yet again to stave off financial ruin after being targeted in court by Legal Aid WA.
The latest action has forced the family to start a crowdfunding campaign to help their defence.
Peter and Ray, along with their late brother Brian, were convicted of stealing 49 gold bars from the Perth Mint in 1982.
Their convictions were overturned in 2004 after retired police officer Tony Lewandowski admitted to fabricating evidence.
Then-Attorney-General Jim McGinty signed a deed of release and indemnity in January 2008 with Peter and Ray, paying them $500,000 each.
Mr McGinty said at the time that the payment was in addition to the $658,672 they had “already received to pay for legal representation during their appeals in 1998 and 2004.”
The deed, a copy of which has been witnessed by this reporter, released both the State and the Micklebergs from any future legal action against each other pertaining to their wrongful conviction.
Writ discovered ‘by accident’
Peter said Ray found out late last year that a writ had been issued by the Legal Aid Commission of WA to recover $141,317 worth of legal costs from his appeal.
However, he only found out by accident when he applied to the bank to borrow against the equity in his house; the writ had not been properly served to him despite being with the courts for two years.
“Ray didn’t even know he was being sued so he went into the court; the writ had been filed but it had never been served,” he said.
Atorney-General Michael Mischin, who as a prosecutor worked on the Mickelberg case for a number of years, has distanced himself from the latest claim.
Peter said Ray attempted to make an appointment with Mr Mischin, who is Ray’s local Upper House member, but the appointment was cancelled.
“To me, the issues go far beyond Ray and I. The issue is not about Ray and I. The issue is about justice in its purest sense,” he said.
“They prosecuted us on what everyone now admits was fabricated evidence.
“They’re dealing with people’s lives here. Is the government that hard up for a dollar?”
Deal put an end to further action
Mr McGinty told ABC radio recently that the original deal that was struck with the Mickelbergs meant no further action could be taken.
“I think that the State should acknowledge that the legal aid funding was part of the consideration of the ultimate settlement and the State should drop any recovery action against the Mickelbergs,” he said.
Mr Mischin refused to answer questions about the case, instead deflecting questions to Legal Aid as an independent body.
Legal Aid WA business services director Malcolm Bradshaw also refused to be interviewed, saying the organisation had no further comment other than a letter written to the Sunday Times on March 4.
The letter claimed Legal Aid had not received the funding Mr McGinty said it had when the agreement was reached in 2008.
“Legal Aid was not a party to any settlement negotiations between Mr Mickelberg and the State,” the letter said.
But Peter said if that was the case, then Legal Aid should be seeking compensation from the State Government.
“Taxpayers’ funds are going into this whole ridiculous thing,” he said.
“They’ve just gone off on this blind crusade to go after us yet again.
“They don’t even understand the human cost. My two daughters Asha and Krista are doing their best.
“They’re trying to get support in general, contacting all their mates; but they shouldn’t have to.”
Shadow Attorney-General John Quigley said he found it “extraordinary” that Legal Aid was making such a claim against Ray.
“(The Mickelbergs) would never have signed the deed had it been explained to them that all their legal costs were not being paid,” he said.
“It’s just extraordinary that the Legal Aid Commission years later now claims another $150,000.”
March date for claim
On March 30, the District Court will decide whether to allow an extraordinary extension of Legal Aid’s writ, which has been in the system for more than two years.
Peter said the brothers had no choice but to fight it.
“Ray is wiped. He’s survived cancer, he’s survived a jail sentence, his family have been ripped to pieces and it’s 2016 and they want some more flesh,” he said.
“We’re basically on our own. If we don’t fight back we could get cleaned up yet again. Because that’s what happens in the legal system.”
Click here to donate to help the Mickelbergs fight the claim.