Sue Neill-Fraser & a legal system lacking morality

Andrew L. Urban.

The foundation stone of the law is morality. All laws have a moral basis or background – but not all individuals and/or institutions within the legal system do. Moral considerations ought to inform legal considerations. In the case of Sue Neill-Fraser this imperative has failed and continues to fail.

That failure of morality is a human failure, it comes from human decisions. For example, as we reported yesterday (If Pell, why not other innocents in jail, April 9, 2020), “The coppers and the Director of Public Prosecutions would be assisted, I think, by doing a root-cause analysis, by figuring out dispassionately … what happened in this case,” Terry Tobin QC, Chancellor of The University of Notre Dame Australia, said. Anyone following the legal disaster that is the Neill-Fraser case, would cheer such an approach in Tasmania, but at the same time laugh with derision at the very thought. (Legal academic at Flinders University, Dr Bob Moles invited then DPP Tim Ellis to participate in such an analysis some years ago in the Neill-Fraser case, but his invitation was ignored.)

The resistance of the Tasmanian legal system to a proper review (judicial and independent) of Neill-Fraser’s conviction is driven by its lack of collective morality. Protecting the conviction takes precedence over finding the truth. In this case, it is even worse than that because we know the truth.

moral imperative

The truth is that Neill-Fraser did not murder Bob Chappell. The whole world knows this, especially after Meaghan Vass revealed on 60 Minutes (March 10, 2019) that she witnessed the on-board scuffle that led to Chappell’s disappearance and presumed death. Neill-Fraser was nowhere near the boat at the time. Her DNA was collected from the deck, so the only real evidence in the case matches the Vass admission. That is the truth.

Tasmania’s DPP should have the moral imperative inform the legal imperative and instead of pursuing the immoral objective of protecting the conviction (for all the wrong reasons), put to the court a submission that takes this truth into account, relieving the burden of a wrongful conviction from Tasmania’s legal system. (Not to mention Neill-Fraser herself.) He has refused to do so. That is the kind of immorality that undermines the law. The DPP has the legal right to pursue his course, but not the moral right. Hence the law is diminished.

“When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

And as Harry S. Truman said, “If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the State.” This observation is especially apt in this case; Tasmania has shown its institutional monopoly on rights in various ways.

For example, Tasmania’s Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling made a statement on or about March 11, 2019, to the effect that after her 60 Minutes admission, Vass had been interviewed by police and had ‘changed her story’ about witnessing Bob Chappell’s murder on Four Winds.

The transcript of a court hearing of April 18 (Vass in an unrelated matter) shows the prosecution explained to the court that police advised that Meaghan Vass had said ‘no comment’ to all questions put to her in the interview on March 8. This clearly contradicts the statement by the Assistant Commissioner.

misconduct

The publication of Cowling’s statement could only serve to discredit Vass as an unreliable witness in any upcoming court appearance in the Neill-Fraser case.

I wrote to Tasmania’s Attorney General Elise Archer, drawing her attention to this misleading statement by an officer of the State. She declined to act on the basis that the Sue Neill-Fraser case ‘is before the court’.

I also lodged a complaint with Tasmania’s Integrity Commission over the matter. “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),”  replied 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.”

This is what is defined as misconduct in the Act:
s4 (1)(a) of the Integrity Commission Act 2009:
(a) conduct, or an attempt to engage in conduct, of or by a public officer that is or involves –
(i) a breach of a code of conduct applicable to the public officer; or
(ii) the performance of the public officer’s functions or the exercise of the public officer’s powers, in a way that is dishonest or improper; or
(iii) a misuse of information or material acquired in or in connection with the performance of the public officer’s functions or exercise of the public officer’s powers; …

And the Tasmanian Police Code of Conduct States:
42 (i) A police officer must behave honestly and with integrity in the course of his or her duties in the Police Service;
Members must be truthful, fair and impartial and act ethically at all times …

morally bankrupt trial

Institutional lack of morality was also responsible for what passed for the police investigation after Bob Chappell was missing from his yacht in January 2009. Embracing a false accusation by a known lowlife (then facing charges) that Neill-Fraser had spoken to him of murdering her brother 11 years earlier, police put on their tunnel vision goggles and pursued Neill-Fraser. The incompetence of the investigation is detailed in former ace detective Colin McLaren’s book, Southern Justice (Hachette).

The morally bankrupt trial featured a prosecution that invented a murder scenario, produced no evidence and attacked Neill-Fraser inadmissibly, prejudicially. Sound and fury replaced reason and proof. Indeed, one witness testifying that she saw Neill-Fraser and Chappell argue loudly on the dock, corrected herself when she saw Neill-Fraser in court, saying that it was a different woman (Chappell’s sister, in fact) who did the arguing. The prosecution ignored that.

On the bench, Justice Blow permitted the prosecution’s speculation about the murder and the wrench that might have been used (but was not produced in court) and referred to a wrench several times in his summing up.

The first appeals court took the view that despite the grounds of appeal, there was enough other evidence to convict. It did not actually refer to any such evidence. Another failure of morality.

In the words of philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke, “Morality is more important than laws, because law depends on morality.”

Footnote: the new appeal against Neill-Fraser’s conviction has been further delayed to either August or November 2020.

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16 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser & a legal system lacking morality

  1. owen allen says:

    I have trouble comprehending the situation in Tasmania.
    I have called them a Rogue Government.
    I have also stated The Old Boys Club, the faceless men, run the show.
    I have called on Michael Phelan, CE of Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to investigate the Criminal Organisation running Tasmania from the shadows.
    Somebody has to,
    Democracy can not allow this to continue.
    Release Sue Neill-Fraser Now.
    Royal Commission Tasmania.

  2. owen allen says:

    I must add. Eventually I did flee. In 2004 after 14 years.
    I attended a seminar on Prison Reform in Salamanca arts Centre chaired by Greg Barnes. A public seminar in a public place.
    I spotted the uniforms, and later a detective.
    They wanted me, left. I would have been stitched up again.
    Several years later I hired a lawyer from out of town practising in Hobart.
    She found an arrest warrant was out on me for 10 years.
    She requested the file.
    It disappeared.
    2 case studies I lived through of nepotism, cronyism criminality and corruption in Tasmania.
    I was calling for a Royal Commission Tasmania Police when I was in Risdon Maximum D Yard with a sign in my cell.
    Free Sue Neill-Fraser Now.
    Royal Commission Tasmania.

  3. owen allen says:

    I am so glad people actually agree with me.
    I got done over so badly it sent me mad.
    I didn’t flee, I couldn’t; where do you go, what do you do.
    So I stayed and stood up.
    I have evidence of cronyism, nepotism, criminality and corruption from the bogan working class, through local government, police to state government.
    I lost my career, later my business and ended up in Risdon Maximum for supposedly breaking a restraining order, whilst busking in a public place, which is trying to earn income.
    And yet when I complained years before of a restraining order breach; oh, he was only doing his job, which in fact was breaking a traffic law at the time and not the norm.
    I am still active. Its never over until its over.
    Free Sue Neill-Fraser Now.
    Royal Commission Tasmania.

  4. Keith says:

    It seems that locking down 5,000 Tasmanians in North West Tasmania is a lot easier than letting one innocent person out of Risden prison. Gutwin needs to do what is right.

  5. Diane Kemp says:

    How do morally bankrupt people get into positions of power so often. In Tasmania, people are determined to protect the wrong decision and poor investigation made regarding Sue – not caring what the impact is. The AG does nothing but say the matter is before the court when in fact is is not – it is waiting to get before the court still. Tasmanians you might as well be living in a convict state still with police and legal system having such power and yet no one wants to stand up and be counted. There is enough evidence now to completely discredit the whole process yet still no one acts. Royal Commission and throw the lot of you in Risdon Prison for your total lack of honesty, courage and morals.

    • Geraldine Allan says:

      Diane, regrettably and annoyingly, ppl are appointed to top positions of power by negative evolution.

      Think about it, who do you know in a top administrative/executive position that was appointed by their preparedness to only act with integrity and morality?

      Over the years, I’ve seen a handful of such Tasmanian appointments, only to watch-on as they have been destroyed from within the system because they dared to expose an unacceptable ‘way of life’ operating from within. True story.

  6. RobertAleander says:

    Id like to see another documentary – maybe 4 Corners. ( love to see them expose the evil)

  7. Jilly says:

    I missed UNDERCURRENT, I did not know about it at all.
    We cant find it on catch up.
    Does anyone have a copy I can purchase.
    I am happy I came across this site and can now stay informed.
    Thank you so much.

  8. Jilly says:

    The corrupt so called Police on this case can and will say anything. Heaven forbid if they are discredited and shown to be liars! Having said that Meaghhan Vass has changed her story is BS!!!
    THOSE BRIGHT SPARKS said the same thing in the Lucille Butterworth Case FIFTY ONE YEARS ago.
    God forbid that Susan will have to wait that long before someone will listen, investigate and clear her name.
    Shame on all the Politicians for not having any conscience, compassion let alone a caring heart, in wanting to correct the wrong. Elise Arvher has always been all mouth and useless.
    The entire Police Force should have a Roysl Commission, they seem to think they are special because they are flat footed cops. Wonder why people dont have any respect for them.
    I had one investigated a few years back, it was proven he acted incorrectly, did not do what he was supposed to, I got an apology.!
    They are a disgrace and the crux of the injustices in our State.
    I cry for Susan and her family. Her case should go outside Tas with so many narrow minded people here saying she is guilty.
    It just breaks my heart so much what she has had to endure and I think of her especially at night, alone in her cell.
    Surely, someone, somewhere with money can help get her a QC to help her. :-(

    • Tom Cairns says:

      Jilly I am sorry that you missed UNDERCURRENT and also probably the Liam Bartlett interview with Meagan Vass where she avows that she will disclose the name of the guilty party on the yacht the night Bob Chappell was murdered. All of those broadcasts were a revelation to the rest of Australia and show Tasmania to be an alternative backdrop for a sequel to the movie DELIVERANCE.

  9. Tom Cairns says:

    It seems that there is no way to even put a scratch on the dark monolith that is the Tasmanian police state. They have, among other things, the passive support of the Attorney-General, Elise Archer, who rebuffs with “it is before the court”.
    Elise that is just the point. It is NOT before the court. It was NOT bef0re the court last year, will NOT be before the court this May and no doubt will NOT be before the court in November.
    Coincidence? I don’t think so, convenience maybe.
    Everyone needs to remember that this is the community that allowed Martin Bryant to own military assault weapons even though there was a record of his threatening anyone approaching his residence, including the postman. What were the police thinking about? Sorry, did I say “thinking”? Silly of me.

  10. LB says:

    Andrew, it seems to me that it does not matter how many times the glaringly obvious problems with this case are highlighted there simply is not the will in Tasmania to correct this miscarriage of justice. Morals, ethics and the law simply do not seem to figure in this equation. It seems to me that too many people have vested interests in maintaining the status quo, otherwise any review of concerns would have been conducted well before now. Why is nobody in Tasmania heeding the calls from eminent lawyers for urgent review? It doesn’t make any sense. Other countries are criticised for their systems not being transparent, for keeping citizens in the dark by deliberate suppression of information, for controlling the media, for promoting propaganda and yet here we are in the island state of Australia which in my view seems not all that different when you look at the SNF case. It is truly disturbing.

    • Geraldine Allan says:

      LB your, “Morals, ethics and the law simply do not seem to figure in this equation”, prompts me to write — for this record, those words are group-speak only.
      Rhetoric, spiel and any other word you suggest for what the spin-doctors write as they prepare the lines for elected representatives and other heads of departments.
      Plain-speak nudges me to write, what a load of rubbish!!
      Sooooo many Grrrr’s from me. 😡🤬😥

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