After Kathleen Folbigg’s release – pardoned after being sentenced to life in jail and having served 20 years – the Australian “justice” system should correct the injustice of convicting Sue Neill-Fraser over a murder she didn’t commit, the SNF supporters group said in a media release.
The Folbigg case clearly demonstrates how the appeals system fails miscarriages of justice, SNF Supporters’ president Rosie Crumpton-Crook said on 6 June 2023, the day Folbigg was freed.
“In light of this (Folbigg) case, Tasmania’s Attorney-General Elise Archer must establish a Commission of Inquiry into the entirely circumstantial murder conviction of SNF in Tasmania in 2010,” she said.
Civil Liberties Australia CEO, Bill Rowlings, said that forensics could acquit Sue Neill-Fraser, just as they did Folbigg.
Neill-Fraser served 13 years in prison, is out on restricted, monitored parole for the next 10 years… and has always strongly proclaimed her innocence.
She was found guilty of a murder on a yacht moored in Sandy Bay in Hobart – with no weapon, no body, no witness to the event, no plausible motive and no forensics linking her her husband, Bob Chappell’s, disappearance. There is DNA evidence linking to Ms Meaghan Vass from the Fours Winds yacht at the time, and so far unknown DNA of others. Ms Vass has admitted publicly to being aboard the night Bob Chappell died.
There are significant concerns about the SNF case over the adequacy of the police investigation, the forensic science evidence presented to the courts and the failure to disclose all relevant materials.
Deficiencies were exposed under parliamentary privilege when the Etter/Selby papers were tabled by Mike Gaffney MLC in the Legislative Council on 31 August 2021. The Tasmanian Government has refused to respond formally to the papers. See https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/LC/tpapers/2021/LCpdf2021/LCTP14_31_08_2021.pdf
Forensic science problems or issues identified in the SNF case include:
- False and misleading evidence from a Forensic Science Servvie Tasmania scientist about the luminol preliminary testing for blood in the dinghy (said to have been used to remove the body of Chappell). The jury was not told that all confirmatory tests for blood were negative;
- A flawed “reconstruction” of winching from below decks through the main hatchway – invented by police – which was said to have been undertaken by SNF to get Chappell’s body up from below;
- Incomplete and flawed forensic evidence about the true nature (large volume and high quality) sample of the DNA of Ms Vass, found on the deck of the yacht, without reasonable explanation. It was argued (and accepted by the judge) at trial that it may have come in on the bottom of shoes of police;
- The “disappearance” of testing/reports on potentially critical exhibits from the major forensic biology report.
The Etter/Selby papers also highlighted Issues of material non-disclosure by the Crown. These were raised again and in a recent submission by Civil Liberties Australia to a Tasmanian Parliamentary Inquiry into Adult Imprisonment. See https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ctee/Council/submissions/csjs/34.%20Civil%20Liberties%20Australia%20Inc.pdf
Former Tasmanian Premier and Attorney-General, Lara Giddings said on 6 June 2023: “The Folbigg case has shown that our courts do get it wrong. It shows the court appeals system is not an adequate safeguard against miscarriages of justice.
“Even the right to further appeal legislation in Tasmania requires fresh and compelling evidence to re-open a case. It does not allow for a review of the first trial; it does not allow for a review of the competency of legal teams; it does not allow for a review of police files and the original investigation undertaken.
“There are lessons to be learnt from the Folbigg case (in NSW- Ed.), the Eastman case (ACT), the Chamberlain case (NT), and the Mallard case (WA) among others.
“In the case of Sue Neill-Fraser there are too many questions left unanswered, too many mistakes and too many assumptions made not to have reasonable doubt about her guilt too,” Giddings (photo) said.
“The Tasmania Government must have the courage to open the Neill-Fraser case up to an independent review.
“A Commission of Inquiry is the best mechanism for such a review, which must be headed up by an independent, interstate judge, retired or not.
“If there is nothing to hide, no one should fear a Commission of Inquiry. We are all human, we all make mistakes, but we must not let our fear of being exposed for those mistakes, prevent a woman from clearing her name and living her life free of the label of “convicted murderer”, Giddings said.
Rowlings, Secretary of CLA, said: “Forensics have freed Folbigg. They would help acquit Sue Neill-Fraser for a 2010 wrongful conviction of murder if only the available material, not looked at for 14 years and some of it never forensically examined, was re-tested for DNA by an independent forensic laboratory/expert and not one that is part of the Tasmania Police, and which is formally controlled by the Police Commissioner”.
President Crumpton-Crook said, “There is an urgent need for a national Criminal Cases Review Commission but, more importantly, it is time for an urgent Commission of Inquiry in Tasmania into the Sue Neill-Fraser case and associated criminal justice issues.
“Sue will not be truly free until her conviction is overturned,” she said.