By Andrew L. Urban
It took just one hour for the first 600 people to register a ‘Like’ on the newly launched facebook page titled ‘We want Tim Ellis fired’ on December 23, 2014, immediately after Ellis was given a suspended 4 month sentence. Ellis was the Tasmanian Director of Public Prosecutions convicted of negligent driving causing the death of 27 year old Natalia Pearn in March 2013.
“He has continued to drag this through the courts making the families [sic] pain so much worse with no remorse what so ever,” read one post (at 9.34pm), a comment which by the afternoon of December 27, 2014 had collected 1,364 ‘likes’, and the page as a whole had collected over 8,800.
Ellis had been suspended from duty after the 2013 accident on full pay (almost $500,000 pa) and angry Tasmanians want him sacked.
The facebook page was unavailable after 2.30pm on December 27, 2014.
“The outpouring is amazing for a small place!” remarked Eve Ash, the filmmaker whose documentary, Shadow of Doubt, raised public awareness of the case of Sue Neill-Fraser, prosecuted by Ellis in 2010.* “There are a lot of comments about no remorse, and him appealing made it worse; referring to Natalia as ‘the girl’, and mostly not stepping down when it happened!”
Natalia’s father was furious at Ellis appealing the guilty verdict: “How dare he kill our child and then drag us through the pain of saying that he did nothing wrong.”
In sentencing, Magistrate Chris Webster said Ellis’s negligence was not at the highest end of offending because he had no alcohol or drugs in his system and was not speeding.
Canberra lawyer Hugh Selby argues that the charge against Ellis should in any case have been heard before a judicial officer brought in from another part of Australia. “Similarly,” he writes in his article ‘What if he had died and she had lived?’ “it was wrong to proceed on the least serious offence because that course put Mr Ellis’ private interests ahead of all public interests.”
Soon after Ellis was sentenced this week, the State Government announced his position was under review, reported ABC News.
The ABC also quoted The Law Society’s Matthew Verney who believed the sentence was at the harsher end of the scale. “Our view is that a suspended sentence is not lenient by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
“The very nature of it is it is an actual term of imprisonment that is still hanging over Mr Ellis’s head, and obviously given his position it is very serious and arguably it’s a hefty penalty for someone in his position.”
The ABC didn’t ask or at least didn’t report why Verney felt someone “in his position” should have a different sentence for causing death by negligent driving to some person in a different position.
* Sue Neill-Fraser was convicted of the murder of her partner Bob Chappell who disappeared from their yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009. The body has never been found, no murder weapon was produced in evidence and Neill-Fraser vehemently denies the charges. Ellis speculated that she hit Chappell with a wrench, winched his body up from below decks, placed it in the dinghy and dumped it in the water, but did not produce any evidence for this scenario. Neill-Fraser is serving a 23 year sentence; her lawyer is preparing a Petition of Mercy in an attempt to have the matter sent back for appeal, believing this case to be a serious miscarriage of justice.