Keith Knights, who remains in custody accused of serious charges, will face a judge-alone trial.
Keith Knights, who remains in custody accused of serious charges, will face a judge-alone trial.

Man accused of inciting murder to face judge-alone trial

A NORTHERN Rivers man facing serious charges will face a judge-alone trial.

Keith Knights, 39, pleaded not guilty to soliciting, encouraging or persuading a person to murder a police officer and the alternate charge of sending a document threatening death or actual bodily harm when he was formally arraigned before Lismore District Court yesterday afternoon.

Those charges related to the alleged November 29, 2017 publication of a lengthy video.

Mr Knights pleaded guilty to having possessed a prohibited weapon without a permit on December 7 the same year.

The Eden Creek man was due to face a trial before Lismore District Court from Tuesday.

But the proceedings did not begin as planned after an issue arose in which he was not transported from Sydney, where he has been held on remand.

The prosecution will allege Mr Knights, through a 40-minute video uploaded to social media, incited violence against police.

On Tuesday, the case was adjourned pending his delayed transportation. But yesterday, the defence made an application for the case to be heard in a judge-alone trial, rather than before a jury.

Judge Warwick Hunt agreed to this and also made an order that the case could proceed with Mr Knights appearing by video link.

The court heard the case would be heard "largely on the basis of documentary material".

Mr Knights appeared briefly on the court's video link screen yesterday afternoon as Judge Hunt explained the situation to him.

Barrister Jason Watts told the court when he applied for a judge-alone trial, the question of whether Mr Knights' defence that he was not guilty, on the basis of mental illness, was the "only issue".

But the court heard there were elements of the alleged offences which he could not concede.

He told Judge Hunt he would submit that "by looking at all the evidence" the Crown could not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, his client's intent.

"We will probably have a difference of opinion as to what course of authority your honour will follow," he said.

Referring to comparable cases the parties would raise before the court, Mr Watts said there would likely be a "divergence of authorities".

Mr Watts and the Crown prosecutor have each handed up a number of documents for Judge Hunt to consider and the trial is expected to get under way today.

On Tuesday, the court heard there was no clear reason as to why Mr Knights wasn't transported for the trial as scheduled.

"I'm unhappy that Corrective Services have reached some view he shouldn't have been brought," Judge Hunt said at the time.

"I'm going to have the registrar indicate my very firm disapproval for what's happened."

The case is expected to return to court at 10am.