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.
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.
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.
To Kevin Andrews MHR:
Civil Liberties Australia on Australia Day 2021 asks the man responsible for citizens of the ACT and the NT having lesser rights than all others Australians – they are not able to even vote on dying with dignity/euthansia law – to ‘rescind’ the federal law he promoted by lodging a new Private Member’s Bill to restore the rights of 600,000 fellow Australians. Here’s the Andrews letter.
To WA Police Commissioner (and Police Minister):
On Australia Day 2021, CLA asks for an apology from WAPOL and the State for those people the police falsely and irresponsibly named as ‘persons-of-interest’ before, some 25 years later, Bradley Edwards was convicted and sentenced. We asked particularly for an apology of Peter Weygers and civil liberties: Weygers was then the local president, whose reputation was ruined by the erroneous police accusation. Click here for the letter.
To Ministers for Corrective Services, throughout Australia:
CLA asks, on Australia Day 2021, that you review the rules, sometimes archaic, about what prisoners can receive through the mail and other associated censorship concerns, including their rights to educational material and to private correspondence with the lawyers. For the letter sent to WA click here. And for a CLA/Uni of Qld report on the state of censorship in prisons in Australia, click here.
The drip-drip-drip of inexorable increasingly-repressive surveillance laws keep emanating from the black hole of Home Affairs, run by Minister Peter Dutton and his sidekick Mike ‘The Pezz’ Pezzullo. The title of their latest Bill explains what they want to do to the Australian people and society: Identify and Disrupt.