Horrific stories of kids locked up 23 hours a day forming suicide pacts, regular riots and a juvenile jail smashed to pieces are the backdrop for an urgent need to change tack on how the state of WA treats its young, and old, prisoners. Australia needs an inquiry – one it has never had in its 120 years – into the state of justice in the nation, CLA’s CEO Bill Rowlings writes.
Derek Bromley refuses to leave prison because he is innocent. He has served 38 years. He was eligible for parole 14 years ago. But to be paroled, he ‘must express remorse for his crime’. Bromley maintains he did not commit a crime, and so is unable to express genuine remorse. His case will soon be before the High Court, with the state of South Australia having a lot to answer for.
Crime in on a 20-year decline, but the number of prisoners in Australia has been growing dramatically over the same period (except for during Covid-19 lockdowns). Why are taxpayers being forced to pay about $330 a day – the price of a top notch hotel stay – for each prisoner each day across Australia? Our justice system generally is no longer fit for purpose, and Productivity Commissions, both national and in Queensland, have recently tried to come to grips with the prison end of Australia’s ‘justice’ system, which CLA says is Unjust By Design.
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.
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.
A South Australian MP in late-September 2020 has called in parliament for a royal commission into half a century of forensic disasters in SA that have put 400 criminal cases, and more, in doubt. He echoes calls by similar CLA in 2016 and 2019, and by others, including into a case where Australia’s longest-serving Aboriginal prisoner, Derek Bromley (photo), remains in jail 37 years after his conviction and 16 years after he could have had parole, because he refuses to admit guilt in a case where evidence from an unqualified and incompetent forensic “expert” sealed his fate. On 12 October, Ch 9 will air yet another expose on the can of worms underlies “justice” in SA.
Global journalist John Pilger will discuss and update the Julian Assange situation in a Zoom conversation at 1900 on 19 Sept 2020.