Andrew L. Urban.
I refer to this matter which I raised over two weeks ago. I now have the audio of the court hearing of April 18 in which the prosecution explained to the court that police advised that Meaghan Vass had said ‘no comment’ to all questions put to her on March 8. The transcript is attached. This clearly contradicts the statement on or about March 11 by Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling – to which I referred in my original letter – to the effect that Vass had ‘changed her story’ about witnessing Bob Chappell’s murder on Four Winds.
I don’t need to emphasise to your Minister* the seriousness of this. Following this, the media reports in The Australian (April 14) and The Mercury (April 16) both gave the misleading impression that Vass had AGAIN ‘changed her story’. This has the effect of misleading the public in a prejudicial manner against Vass, a key witness in a murder conviction under appeal.
I respectfully ask that the Attorney General take urgent steps to correct the public record with direct requests to both The Australian and The Mercury to publish corrections. She may also wish to enquire how Assistant Commissioner Cowling’s misleading statement came to be issued. The public has a right to know so they can have continued confidence in the administration of the legal system.
This letter, as my original letter of April 23, is also open to the public on my website.
* Letter addressed to:
Karen Gillie, Departmental Liaison Officer, Office of the Hon Elise Archer MP,
Friday May 10, 2019
TRANSCRIPT OF COURT HEARING APRIL 18, 2019
before Deputy Chief Magistrate Daly:
Speaker 1: Meaghan Elizabeth Vass
Miss Vass: Yes.
Your Honour: Yes. Thank you.
Your Honour: Mr. Barns.
Mr. Barns: We enter pleas of guilty for both possession charges Your Honour.
Your Honour: Record a plea of guilty through counsel on complaint 2891 of 2019, and also 92 of 2019.
Your Honour: Take a seat.
Your Honour: Miss Goodwin.
Miss Goodwin: Thanks Your Honour.
Miss Goodwin: A copy of the facts in relation to 92 of 19.
Miss Goodwin: On the eighteenth of October 2018 at 12PM police attended a disturbance in the vicinity of Hopkins and Sunderland streets. Police arrived shortly afterwards and located the defendant and another male.
Miss Goodwin: The defendant’s identity was confirmed by personal papers and the police systems.
Miss Goodwin: Both the defendant and the male appeared to be under the influence of illicit drug. And as such, police conducted a search of the defendant and located a Ziploc bag containing cannabis, a gross weight of 3.8 grams, in her handbag. This was seized and she participated in a record … Written recorded interview where she stated under caution that the substance was cannabis and it belonged to her. That she had received the cannabis from a friend in Glenorchy and she last used it early that morning.
Miss Goodwin: She signed the notebook as an accurate reflection of the questions asked and answered and was advised that she would be [inaudible 00:01:28] by summons.
Miss Goodwin: And complaint 2891 of 19.
Miss Goodwin: On the eighth of March this year police from patrol in Claremont at ten twenty that morning. The police observed the defendant standing and waiting at a bus stop on main road Claremont. Just south of the Claremont Hotel.
Miss Goodwin: Police were aware that she had an active warrant. She was arrested. She was taken to Hobart Station. A search of property belonging to her was conducted and police subsequently located a small Ziploc bag containing a small amount of cannabis in her red purse and cannabis residue located in a blue container within her gray handbag. She was cautioned by police and asked a series of questions and she agreed the items were hers.
Miss Goodwin: Provided no comment to all other questions put to her. And this property was then seized.
Miss Goodwin: [inaudible 00:03:16] good conditions and we’re gonna be [inaudible 00:03:16] plus have prior notice.
Your Honour: Mr. Barns.
Mr. Barns: Thank you, Your Honour.
Mr. Barns: Can I just hand up to Your Honour a letter from the Clinic where my client is currently an inpatient. This indicates that she is currently under taking drug rehabilitation and has been since the 22nd of March.
Mr. Barns: She’s come back to Tasmania to deal with this matter and she’ll be returning to the clinic next Tuesday.
Mr. Barns: Can I just also indicate in relation of the two matters in the use of cannabis, without going into great detail, Your Honour might be aware Miss Vass has been under some considerable pressure in relation of a certain other matter and has been coming under the attention of the police on more than one occasion.
Mr. Barns: I won’t take that any further but it’s a bit of extremely stressful time. I can indicate, Your Honour, that Miss Vass is in a much better place in terms of getting instructions and attending court alone than she was even a month ago because of now her relation to Orlando to go to Victoria.
Mr. Barns: And she’s got about another … Her program I think runs for three months. She’s done six weeks. So she’ll be (interstate) from next Tuesday for about another month to complete the course.
Mr. Barns: I would ask Your Honour, in the circumstances to … We understand there’s been a breach in the undertaking that was given to the court … We would ask Your Honour to extend the undertaking and alternatively to simply proceed to convict with no further order be made in relation to matters given that she is getting the treatment given the circumstances in which she was found with the cannabis and the fact that she’s taken a very brave step to leave the state and to remain in Victoria to complete this treatment.
Your Honour: Yes, all right.
Your Honour: Thanks Mr. Barns.
Your Honour: Just stand please, Miss Vass.
Your Honour: Miss Vass you have some prior matters of a similar nature where you’ve been dealt with without conviction.
Your Honour: I accept all these submissions that Mr. Barns has made on your behalf today.
Your Honour: I think it’s appropriate that I record convictions against you on each of these two charges noting that you have entered in voluntarily into significant rehabilitation in the Clinic.
Your Honour: You will though have to pay the court cost on each complaint in the sum of 66 dollars and 36 cents.
Your Honour: And I can only give you 28 days to pay those amounts. There’s also a victims of crimes levy of 20 dollars on each complaint so subject to the 28 days to pay.
Your Honour: You’ll receive notice in the mail in due course.
Your Honour: You’re free to go.
Mr. Barns: Thank you Your Honour.
Miss Vass: Thank you Your Honour.