Man who ran illegal airline for MPs has minor court win

A man jailed for illegally operating a charter airline that was used by state and federal MPs has won an appeal against one of his convictions.

Josh Hoch, 36, operated the Flying Fitters Pty Ltd and Hoch Air Pty Ltd, transporting politicians from Katter’s Australian Party around their Queensland electorates over a five-year period.

Hoch was jailed for two years in November 2022 after being found guilty in Townsville District Court of three counts of fraud to the value of $30,000 or more, one count of dishonesty, four of flying an aircraft without a licence and five of operating an aircraft without an air operator’s certificate.

Hoch appealed his convictions for fraud and dishonesty and the Court of Appeal in Brisbane on Tuesday handed down its judgment.

Justice Helen Bowskill said Hoch's appeal against the dishonesty charge had been allowed and ordered a new trial on that count.

"The appeal against conviction is otherwise dismissed," Justice Bowskill said.

Hoch's overturned conviction related to an allegation that he used his two air charter companies to transport Kennedy MP and KAP leader at the time, Bob Katter, during December 2015.

Prosecutors alleged Hoch held a private pilot's licence at the time but did not have the air operator's certificate.

Mr Katter used Hoch’s flight charter service through his travel allowance, but was unaware of its lack of authenticity and it was not alleged any of the KAP politicians engaged in any wrongdoing.

Hoch's appeal centred on claims there had been miscarriage of justice due to inadequate directions given to the jury.

Hoch's barrister at the original trial told jurors he hoped they were entitled to payment from their usual occupations.

"How does the Crown, in this case, saying Mr Hoch knew he wasn't entitled to payment?" the barrister said.

Justice Bowskill along with Justices Debra Mullins and David North found that the jury could have convicted Hoch for dishonesty solely on the basis that he was operating an airline without certification.

The justices gave seven business days for Hoch and prosecutors to respond via written submissions.

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