Sue Neill-Fraser appeal delayed (again) to later in 2020

Andrew L. Urban.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another; this time, the already delayed May 25, 2020 appeal hearing has had to be delayed again due to the restrictions imposed by the emergency measures being implemented in the coronavirus pandemic; the earliest option is August 17, but it could be as late as November 2. 

DPP Daryl Coates said it was his view the appeal would be impossible to conduct over video-link.

Coates said some witnesses would be giving lengthy evidence and would need to be shown documents and videos. Carr agreed the matter should be heard in a face-to-face hearing.

The appeal will only go ahead in August if a jury trial involving her lawyer Chris Carr in the Victorian Supreme Court does not go ahead, according to The Advocate.

Justice Wood said the court would also consider letting the appeal impinge on the scheduled sittings, which would remove three judges from their work to hear the appeal.

But Justice Wood said this would have a substantial impact on the court which, due to the suspension of jury trials because of coronavirus, will have a trial backlog.

A further directions hearing to discuss whether the appeal will go ahead in August will be held on June 22 at 4pm.

Neill-Fraser was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in 2010, for the murder of her partner Bob Chappell. Her first appeal failed and she is now appealing under recent legislation that allows for a further appeal.

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24 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser appeal delayed (again) to later in 2020

  1. David Wolfe says:

    Perversion of justice on a scale only seen in the USA and dodgy third world countries. My God is there anyone down there in power with even the slightest whiff of intelligence.Completely sickening.

  2. John Slaby says:

    Never underestimate the power of incompetence !
    Mans inhumanity to man is immeasurable !
    Those that do not believe in God had better pray they are right !
    Bass Strait is not 150 years wide.
    There has been continued support for Sue Neill-Fraser , the governor and the attorney general have the power to release her to home detention now. Please Please Please ..

  3. Garry Stannus says:

    Well yes, Diane Kemp (10Apr9:32p.m.), power and money are involved… particularly the money, or the lack of it. Sue Neill-Fraser’s lawyers are pro-bono, acting from Western Australia and Melbourne and sometimes appearing in person in Hobart or Launceston.

    I suggest that the delays in the hearing of the appeal are perhaps largely down to the Defence team. First, consider the five months gap between the leave to appeal application being permitted and the appeal papers being lodged … the lodged appeal paper contains less than 100 words.

    Why did it take so long to prepare, given that all relevant (you’d think) documents and arguments were already well known to the defence who had participated in the many directions hearings, and then of course, had participated in the examination of witnesses – a witness process which began 30Oct2017 and ended 6Feb2019. (Not counting the next month when just as we all watched Meaghan Vass on 60 Minutes, so too did the defence apparently learn of the existence of an affidavit (signed either in on or before 5Feb2020 and/or on 25Feb2020.

    [There is something not quite right in in these two affidavit dates. We will need an inquiry to sort it out.]

    So, given the five month gap until the appeal papers were actually lodged, and the appeal court time-table last August being only able to find a date for the Full Court of Appeal to convene in March of this year, then in December, with the March date all set, the defence asked for the appeal to be postponed because Mr Percy QC was now not available till May of this year! Justice Wood found a way of accommodating this request and subsequently fixed on 25May2020.

    All the time, Sue is in prison … In Nov-Dec2015, she had filed an application for leave to make a 2nd appeal – just days after the amendments to the Criminal Code 1924 came into effect, thus allowing 2nd and further appeals (if fresh and compelling evidence came to light). It’s going on five years since she applied for the appeal, and I assume that her then speedy application came as a result of Barbara Etter’s unstinting hard work and diligence in Sue’s case.

    So where are we now? The March appeal is gone by the board, and now the May 25 date is abandoned. And get this: though both DPP and defence agreed that the appeal could not be held via video, it was the defence which asked for a date … that date being in November of this year. Justice Wood resisted and pegged it back to 17Aug2020.

    I write all this as a person who believes Susan Neill-Fraser’s conviction came as a result of a miscarriage of justice, and as a person who thinks the present defence team may (for reasons unknown to me) have been dragging it feet.

    From what I know, in my view the delays can be examined/seen thus:
    5Feb2019: Paul Galbally, visiting SN-F in the cells, tells her Vass has made a ‘I was on boat’ statement.
    6Feb2019: Colin McLaren, last witness in the leave-to-2nd-appeal application hearings, finishes evidence.
    25Feb2019: (According to Justice Brett, ) Meaghan Vass signs an ‘I was on the boat’ affidavit … ‘
    10Mar2019: 60 Minutes screens Vass ‘Confession’
    14Mar2019: Defence Counsel ask for hearing to be re-opened, to tender affidavits relating to t. 60 Minutes…
    21Mar2019: Justice Brett, having received the affidavit/s, grants the leave application.
    2Aug2019: Five months later, Galbally says that the appeals papers were lodged on this day.
    13Nov2019: Three months later, Justice Wood sets aside 2-13Mar2020 for hearing of the Appeal.
    13Dec2019: Galbally asks Wood J to delay case till May2020 due to Defence QC Percy no longer available
    31 Jan2020: Justice Wood agreed to Defence timetable for hearing start date on 25May2020
    7Apr2020: Coronavirus: both Counsel ask for delay: defence asks for Nov! Date set by Wood: 17Aug2020.


    • Diane Kemp says:

      Thank you Garry and I agree with all you are saying. The shame is that Sue has pro bono lawyers who will put paying clients ahead of her eg Pell. Why is there not someone who has conviction in Sue and takes on the case for justice not payment??? Perhaps then this will finally move forward and the appeal will be held and this miscarriage of justice will be over for Sue. Meanwhile Sue still sits in prison waiting……..

    • Geraldine Allan says:

      Copy & pasting my f/b reply to Garry’s post on Justice System Reform f/b page, acknowledging that at times I’m speculating: –

      Garry Stannus, well researched post. Thus, I felt I ought to respect the time you’ve taken to prepare it, with a thought-through reply. Mostly of late being time-poor, I’ve made brief responses on the run.
      Here’s my take on it, although I have resorted to a bit of speculation.

      Delay in lodging appeal papers: –
      My feeling is that the “grounds for appeal” required a legal strategic approach in preparation.
      And, it had to be undertaken with extreme caution to get it right. No second chances this time. If the CCA application is dismissed, which of course is unthinkable this time around, then the grounds listed will hold in any HCA application for appeal. It seems, we know so much more now about HCA applications and decisions, and the grounds now listed, will be more likely to get past HCA sentry, for hearing/decision. Hopefully, an application will not be necessary.

      It does take time and I agree that due to the distance, time demands on pro-bono legal practitioners and whatever else we don’t know, the delay was frustrating. I hold a suspicion that the role of Meaghan Vass both up to lodging the appeal papers and beyond, including at the forthcoming CCA hearing required very careful legal considerations.

      Meaghan Vass
      Being highly suspicious that behind-the-scenes, much consideration was required as to how best to include the Meaghan Vass involvement/admissions in the appeal grounds, I feel that sensitive caution and thought was particularly required in the drafting of this ground. I may have that wrong.
      For me, there is a fear of her being pressured into backing away, which I hope doesn’t happen. Nonetheless, in the event that she does, my thinking is that the remaining grounds had to be fool-proof in order to hold weight if the Vass ground becomes shaky for whatever reason.
      Affidavit dates — anomaly?

      I’m unsure about the anomaly in the affidavit dates. It occurred to me that the first document maybe was a statutory declaration prepared by police for M Vass’ signature then later in February 2019 it became formalised into an affidavit. I may have that totally confused, with the MV later withdrawal of her statements. At the time of writing this, I’ve not had a chance to check the accuracy of my ponderings.

      CCA dates: –
      Sometimes I ponder if it is a simpler process to expedite an appeal by FCA than by the CCA? I write that because the criminal court of appeal requires judges who are well experienced in criminal law, whereas the FCA being for civil appeal may attract different judges, who may be more readily available than those for CCA? I have no idea if my imagination is running wild now, yet I have wondered this previously. This thought leads me to wonder how many Tasmanian civil court appeals happen when compared with criminal appeals. My gut feeling is the latter is a larger number. Maybe the S/C annual report contains the answer. More research!!!😩

      For Susan Neill-Fraser’s sake we can but hope that the August date is not altered. Yet, as per the most recent directions hearing, if the courts are not open for live hearings, we have a problem.

      7 April 2020 Mercury reports: –
      “The court heard today it was the preference of all parties to have the hearing in person and not remotely.
      Director of Public Prosecutions Daryl Coates said it would be a complex, lengthy hearing which need to be conducted face-to-face.
      Justice Wood said the court would consider all options for hearing dates and would sit beyond the 10 days if necessary.
      “We just don’t know what the situation will be with the coronavirus and counsel’s ability to travel,” she said.
      The week beginning August 17 was reserved as a potential new hearing date, but will be dependent on the availability of Neill-Fraser’s Melbourne-based lawyer Chris Carr who has a trial in Victoria in late August.
      A second potential hearing date was also reserved for the week beginning November 2.
      The matter was adjourned for a further directions hearing on June 22.”

      Barbara Etter’s role: –
      Barbara’s dedication/diligence to the SN-F cause pre the 2015 amendments that enabled the fresh/second appeal requires far more recognition than has been afforded and publicly recognised. ✅✅✅✅
      Of course, behind the scenes her loyalty and hard work is never trivialised or criticised.
      Annoyingly😩, yet unsurprisingly to me who has witnessed other brave decent people being attacked and destroyed by the ‘system’, Barbara has paid a high price. Yet, she continues to wear her ‘highest integrity’ badge with great dignity and honour.👏👏👏👏

      Defence team: –
      I’m unable to make informed comment on reasons for delay. My suspicion is that being a pro-bono client, one does have to patiently wait in the queue, as paying clients are represented. After all it is their 💰💰💰payments that provide the practitioners’ income and by default enables them to engage in pro-bono work.

      Timeline: –
      Garry your timeline from February 2019 to April 2000 is comprehensive. My inner self prompts the rhetorical question — how could this have been expedited?

  4. Diane Kemp says:

    Continued shame for this injustice not having been rectified by now. Delay, delay, delay. I ask the same question Jerry has – why indeed did Pell’s appeal go ahead – because of power and money are my thoughts. If his went ahead, there is no logical reason for Sue’s to be delayed – if it wanted to go ahead it could have been done but no one wants to get this resolution.
    Stay strong Sue and as for anonymous on this site – again I wonder who you are that you will not identify yourself???

  5. J H Slaby says:

    The honourable lady has such amazing support by decent people throughout the
    nation , surely home would be the least of mercies.

  6. K Roger says:

    If the Tasmanian Govt wanted the appeal to go ahead, it could have been done. The option of a trial by video was understandably unsuitable however was any other option considered? All interstate participants could have been tested for the virus before flying to Hobart, given exemption from isolation as essential workers, been housed at the Intercontinental and practiced social distancing during the appeal in a closed court.
    I doubt there would have been any objection from Sue’s team as fundamentally, all they would be doing during the appeal would be go to court, go to their hotel and prepare for the next day anyway.
    They just want to defer their humiliation as long as they can. A Royal Commission beckons.

    • Tom Cairns says:

      In a nutshell! And the key word is “humiliation”. There must be a mob of police officers shaking in their shoes at the impending consequences.
      Well put K. Roger.

  7. anonymous says:

    Sue’s supporters are as bad as Trump: complain, whinge and deflect the blame to an incorrect party.

    • Robin Bowles says:

      Put your name to your posts or nick off! Andrew, I don’t think you should publish anonymous comments!

      • andrew says:

        ‘Anonymous’ uses various fake names. I try to filter out vexatious comments but don’t want to stifle d\robust discussion. But I agree with your comment in principle.

  8. Amanda says:

    The State Government needs to explain why our representatives are supporting the continued incarceration of Susan Neill-Fraser despite

    – the clear evidence of police bungling and the 60 Minutes admissions by Meaghan Vass
    – evidence that she has been a “model” prisoner for the full 10+ years in jail, is no risk to the public, and has been granted Leave to Appeal after considerable court time and further significant evidence in her favour
    – the acknowledged threat to prisoners from COVID19 pandemic, when she is in the “older, at risk” age group and has compromised health due to lack of care in prison
    – the continued huge cost to Tasmanian taxpayers of keeping her in prison when so much money is needed to deal with COVID19, and the likelihood of those taxpayers also having to pay a great deal of compensation when she is finally freed

  9. Ross says:

    So, the Tasmanian Court is closed?

    For whom and why? The video link, according to the Prosecution was not viable?

    Lisbeth, your comment sums it up:
    ” Has anyone looked at how far a social distance a judge (generally male) is from the accused, both physically and socially”.

    Lisbeth, you may have also added how, in Tasmania, “that social distance” created the divide that sees Sue in jail, with those continuing to run the legal zoo in Tassie. And that was before Covid-19.

  10. tony brownlee says:

    How is this poor woman not released on bail? I can only imagine how she must feel today after yesterdays events in Brisbane!

  11. LB says:

    Really ? Why am I not surprised? Disgusting, disgraceful and totally Tasmanian!
    Utterly contemptible in my view. Tasmania has no conscience in righting wrongs.

    • Jilly says:

      Totally agree.
      Tasmania is full of corrupt people, who get away with perverting the course of Justice.
      Need to be known in the right places.
      Guilty of murder on circumstantial evidence.

  12. robert gibson says:

    This is just more delaying tactics by the legal system in Tasmania ,what ever happened to the mantra ,justice delayed is justice denied

  13. Julie Bloxsom says:

    Why don’t they let Sue out until the Appeal is started … 10 years already … disgraceful !!!

  14. Robin Bowles says:

    For goodness sake Premier Gutwein, LET HER OUT! Show more nouse, compassion and backbone than Hodgeman! It’s outrageous that she is sitting, waiting, waiting, when her appeal will be a laydown misere! I have phoned the Premier’s office today. The direct line is 6165 7650. LET HER OUT!

    • john ferris says:

      I wish I could share your “laydown misère” confidence in her appeal but either way she should be OUT now to await the verdict. Enough is enough.

  15. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    I have only one question for your readers Andrew.
    “Can someone explain why the George Pell appeal hearing went ahead during Corona Virus shutdowns”?

    • There is no reason for delays in court. If 30 students can be sat at arm’s length within a small classroom a court can accommodate all hearings . There is absolutely no excuse for court not running as usual.

      Has anyone looked at how far a social distance a judge (generally male) is from the accused, both physically and socially.

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