Andrew L. Urban.
Tasmania’s Integrity Commission has dismissed my complaint against Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Cowling, in which I raise the contradiction between his statement to the media and the summary of facts presented in court, regarding Meaghan Vass recanting her statement made on 60 Minutes (March 10) in which she admitted witnessing the murder of Bob Chappell and stating Sue Neill-Fraser was not there.
I reported the police statement here on March 12: Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling said police re-interviewed Ms Vass last week when the program’s promotional material suggested a new version of events. The version of events given by Ms Vass on 60 Minutes is contrary to her previous police interview, contrary to her sworn evidence in court and contrary to last week’s police interview,” Commander Cowling said. (emphasis added)
But the prosecution summary of facts tendered in court on April 18 (when Vass was appearing on a different matter) contradicts that: in that interview, Vass had only said “No comment” to all questions (other than admitting possession of a controlled plant.) See transcript
“The legislation which establishes the Commission only allows us to investigate ‘misconduct’ – which has a specific definition under the Integrity Commission Act (2009) (the Act),” writes Integrity Commission Director Operations, Michael Easton.
“While it is clear from your complaint, that you are concerned about the actions of Tasmania Police, the information you have provided does not indicate that misconduct, as defined in the Act, has occurred.”
1 – If the definition of ‘misconduct’ in the Act excludes reference to police making misleading and prejudicial statements the definition probably needs to be improved.
2 – My complaint was lodged in the absence of any evidence to support Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling’s statement. Such a statement at such a time in the protracted case of Sue Neill-Fraser could be expected to be supported by at least an excerpt from the relevant interview with Meaghan Vass, to which he refers.
3 – Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling’s public statement was issued prior to the March 21 hearing before Justice Brett in the Neill-Fraser appeal process. If his statement was factual and the DPP was not briefed to advise the court, Justice Brett would no doubt regard that failure very seriously. Is it not perverting justice? Is it likely contempt of court?
4 – After Commander Cowling’s statement, I sought a response from Meaghan Vass, and was advised that no, she did not recant her 60 Minutes version when interviewed by police.