It is four years since Bridgecorp collapsed, owing $460 million to 14,500 investors. For much of that time, those investors have waited for the finance company's managing director, Rod Petricevic, to appear in court to answer charges brought under the Securities Act and by the Serious Fraud Office. They have every right to be impatient and have had good reason to be more than just a little incredulous at some of the goings-on. These culminated this week in an application for a permanent stay of criminal proceedings against Mr Petricevic. According to his lawyer, Charles Cato, he would not receive a fair trial because he could not afford to pay his legal bills.

Mr Cato said he would have to walk away from the High Court case unless his client was granted legal aid. Without representation, Mr Petricevic would be unable to adequately conduct his own defence. The 20,000 documents in the Crown case created a complexity that placed it beyond the ability of any man. Any proceedings would, therefore, fly in the face of the Bill of Rights Act, which upholds the right to a fair trial, including the right to legal representation.

Quite rightly, Justice Geoffrey Venning has dismissed these entreaties. In the first instance, he had to consider the precedent a verdict favouring Mr Petricevic would have set. Everyone would be tempted to cry poverty. Legal aid, however, must be reserved for those who can prove they have insufficient means to pay for legal services. Mr Petricevic, whose lifestyle included a Remuera mansion, a Porsche and a luxury yacht, has singularly failed to do this. The Legal Services Agency, the Legal Aid Review Panel and the High Court have all declined his application for public money.

This was done on the basis that he could use money held in a family trust to pay for his defence. Mr Petricevic, despite being bankrupt, is a trustee of the R.M. Petricevic Trust. This, according to a financial report for the March 2009 year, had total equity of $5.2 million, owning six rental properties valued at more than $1 million, with mortgage liabilities of $535,000. The trust also owned the Petricevic home in Remuera valued at $4.4 million, with a $1.4 million mortgage.

Mr Cato said that, while Mr Petricevic was a trustee, his wife and children were the beneficiaries, and the trust should not be regarded as part of his resources. That argument held little water. Most tellingly, the Legal Services Agency said: "The information before us shows a close-knit family trust with considerable assets. There is no independent trustee. There is a history of very large advances made to Mr Petricevic, and significant benefits provided to both Mr and Mrs Petricevic on an ongoing basis. Those benefits are provided to them by themselves as trustees."

This is a damning riposte to Mr Cato's claim that Mr Petricevic could not instruct his wife to take money from the trust to pay for legal expenses. In any event, the Legal Service Act stipulates that Mr Petricevic's wife's resources are counted as his. Equally, Mr Petricevic should be able to defend himself. As managing director, he was at the heart of Bridgecorp. He has also had a long, if undistinguished, business career. As well, he has been given every opportunity, not least in time, to organise his defence.

It is time for the posturing to end. If Mr Petricevic finds himself without legal representation, it will be his own doing. There was no good reason to delay the trial, and Justice Venning has been more than generous in postponing proceedings by a month until September 5. The interests of those who invested in Bridgecorp and, in some cases, lost five and six-figure sums, demand that the wheels of justice begin to turn.