CLArion Mar 2021: Sue Neill-Fraser appeal to start, at last!

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.

Appeal court could call for alleged police failures dossier

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.

AG wants to lead Australia on raising responsibility age

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.

Court warns of retrial, possibly at great expense, CLA says

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.

Kissing judge features in Grand Poobah pash: age shall not weary him

Just as chief judge Alan Blow makes a public PR bid for retaining his ’talented’ judges unchanged for a total of 20 years-plus – 6 men and 1 women, it should be noted – one of them (and not the woman) gets caught on camera late at night in the Grand Poobah nightcoub in an “intimate kiss” with a junior employee who reports to him. No wonder CLA and the Tasmanian Women Lawyers are calling for a judicial commission in Tasmania, urgently.

3000 people call for Defence Inquiry reforms

In a detailed criticism, the human rights advocate wife of an honoured SAS RSM soldier outlines why our military personnel are plagued by second-class regulations and rights even as they deliver first-class service to the nation. More than 3000 people have signed a petition to the Australian Parliament, agreeing with her, that Australian soldiers too should have equal protection before the law, and not be subjected to ‘Roo Bar’ regulations which form a barrier to justice. Photo: ADF whistleblower speaks to a rally in front of the ACT courts complex.

What’s the rate of wrongful convictions in Australia?

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.