It has been reported that NSW police are accepting secret reports of sexual assault in a dangerous new type of vigilantism. Asked to comment verbally by the media, Civil Liberties Australia chose to put our concerns in writing. Here is our statement.
Police investigating police misconduct – and producing no case to answer, or a whitewash – is common throughout Australis. Paul Gregoire tells of some recent cases, and CLA provides some better ways of handling complaints against police generally.
Today’s the day! Risdon prisoner Sue Neill-Fraser’s long-awaited, long-thwarted, and long-delayed appeal is due to start on 1 March 2021, this CLArion issue’s cover date. The tortuous, uphill climb to today began on 2 August 2013 when CLA President Dr Kristine Klugman and CEO Bill Rowlings briefed then-Shadow Liberal AG Vanessa Goodwin on the need for Tasmania to ‘mirror’ the then-new law in South Australia allowing a second appeal. On 2 November 2015, the now-deceased Goodwin was true to her word: the second ‘Right to Appeal’ became Tasmanian law too. Since that date – 5 1/2 years ago – SNF has been striving for an appeal court to overturn what CLA believes is her wrongful conviction for murdering husband, Bob Chappell, on their yacht moored in Sandy Bay on the night of 26 January 2009.
Sudden, dramatic apologies by the Tasmanian Premier and Police Commissioner over investigative and management failures by Tasmanian Police since 2009 have added a possible late-breaking, new dimension to the appeal by Sue Neill-Fraser against her murder conviction, which begins in Hobart on Monday 1 March 2021. The apologies bring back to public notice a 60-page critique of alleged police failures in the SNF investigation: it was submitted to a coroner’s court in 2014, but its contents have never seen the light of day. The appeal court could be better informed if it demands to examine the dossier.
All Australian jurisdictions have agreed, after years of research and national discussions, to raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility for children from 10, but have failed to act together on an agreement reached in 2020. The ACT has decided the issue is so important that it will go it alone by the end of 2021, showing a lead to the other states and the NT, and will raise the age from 10 to 14.
Despite having a delay of 18 months for judicial/legal and Covid reasons during which to prepare, Tasmania’s Court of Criminal Appeal refuses to live-stream the Sue Neill-Fraser case starting 1 March 2021, Although there is intense interest Australia-wide, only 18 people can sit in the public gallery, 17 can watch CCTV coverage from the next door courtroom, and eight media are to be corralled in another separate CCTV room. The court claims a reason for no live-streaming is that it might order a retrial, a final decision that is actually beyond the power of the court to make. Neill-Fraser is appealing a murder conviction from 2009, which CLA believes was a miscarriage of justice.
LATE NEWS: Robert Richter QC of Melbourne has replaced Tom Percy QC of Perth as SNF’s barrister, due to Covid-19.
No-one keeps statistics on wrongful convictions in Australia, so the rate has to be derived from overseas. Bill Rowlings of Civil Liberties Australia uses the virtually identical legal-police-courts systems in the UK, which does have a statutory authority keeping accurate figures. In Australia, the ‘headline’ rate for major crimes of 6% will surprise many people: for minor crimes, the legal system gets it wrong in about 10% of cases, questioning whether ‘justice’ in Australia needs a major commission of inquiry.
Ordinary citizens are starting to fight back agains the problems of police-investigating police (PIP). Camera phones are becoming instruments of truth when police officers collude to deny, during internal police inquiries, that they used excessive force, or bashed, a person they were arresting. You have a right to film police in public, provided you don’t hinder them. ‘Stop PIP’ is a new CLA campaign, in development.
In capital cities around Australia, 9 November marked ’Stop the Prosecution!s’ day when supporters called on Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter to end the secret trials of Witness K from ASIS and his lawyer Bernard Collaery. Their trials – secret evidence in closed courts – are contrary to the rule of law, which the AG is supposedly the guardian of.