Jill Meagher.

Jill Meagher.

Nearly four months after he was charged with a crime that shocked the nation, the man accused of raping and murdering Jill Meagher will fight the charges, a court heard on Friday.

Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, of Coburg appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court via videolink from the Melbourne Assessment Prison when it was revealed a contested commital hearing on the charges will be heard in March.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton said the hearing to decide if Bayley should stand trial was expected to take one and a half days and would begin on March 12.

Adrian Ernest Bayley

Adrian Ernest Bayley

Ms Broughton said she would extend a ban on any damaging information about Bayley being published on the internet. She said the ban would also apply to another name Bayley had used in the past - Adrian Ernest Edwards.

Bayley, wearing a tight-fitting dark grey shirt, sat behind a table during the 15-minute hearing with his hands clasped in front of him.

He spoke only twice: to tell the magistrate that he could see her and the courtroom.

Bayley spent most of the brief hearing with his head bowed but occasionally looked up to stare at the monitor.
He did not apply for bail.

Concerns were raised at Bayley’s last court appearance before Ms Broughton in October about people using social media to vilify him.

Defence lawyer Helen Spowart tendered a vast amount of internet-sourced material she claimed was designed to express or incite hatred towards Bayley. The material had appeared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube after Bayley’s arrest.

Ms Spowart claimed during the October hearing that the material fuelling the vilification of Bayley could irreparably damage his chances for a fair trial.

Bayley had been labelled in "subhuman terms" and the continued publication of the material could contaminate the views of potential jurors, she said.

Ms Broughton agreed and ordered any damaging material about him be removed from the internet.

Ms Meagher’s distraught husband, Tom, had days earlier pleaded with people on social media to stop posting comments about Bayley for fear of interfering with the court case.

And last week police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay met a senior Facebook executive to express concerns that hate pages could have threatened Bayley’s prosecution.

There is no ban however on the publication of Bayley’s image because the magistrate decided identity was not an issue in the case. She did not believe the publication of photographs of Bayley would prejudice the administration of justice.

Bayley is accused of abducting Ms Meagher, 29, who moved with her husband from Ireland to Melbourne three years ago, while walking home alone from a bar in Sydney Road early on Saturday, September 22.

She had left Bar Etiquette at 1.33am on Saturday after drinking with ABC colleagues and planned to walk to the nearby flat she shared with her husband.

Police discovered Ms Meagher’s body buried in a shallow grave beside a dirt road in Gisborne South, which is about 45 kilometres - or a 40-minute drive - from where Ms Meagher was last captured on CCTV footage walking north along Sydney Road in Brunswick.

Bayley was arrested and charged on Thursday, September 27.