Andrew L. Urban.
If Tasmania’s Attorney-General fails to act on last week’s Etter/Selby submission revealing the withholding of evidence by police, misleading forensic evidence and serious investigation failures into the 2009 death of Bob Chappell, her decision will be considered in effect a political cover-up and a degradation of Tasmanian justice.
Sue Neill-Fraser, his life partner, was convicted of Chappell’s murder in 2010. Since then, there have been dozens of media articles on the Sue Neill-Fraser case (over 130 on this site alone), that all consider her conviction a miscarriage of justice: TV reports including a sensational one on 60 Minutes with an eye witness contradicting the Crown case, a feature length documentary film, a 6-part TV documentary, three books … but the Barbara Etter APM/Hugh Selby submission is the first to directly challenge the Attorney-General to act (seek to reopen the appeal) as it pinpoints malpractice, incompetence and lies in itemised, annotated detail. (Etter is Neill-Fraser’s former solicitor.)
Will Attorney-General Elise Archer heed the submission, damning TasPol and its reprehensible methods, or will she take the heat herself, by simply doing nothing about it? To the public, that might well appear to be a political cover-up … and everyone knows that it is usually the cover-up that does the most damage to the perpetrators of political misdeeds.
The Attorney-General is no doubt weighing up which course of action risks the least political damage; it’s a wicked problem, but it’s all of Club Tasmania’s own making.
Of course, wherever the political establishment is aligned with the legal system in a protective embrace, the symbiosis becomes an impenetrable shield, capable of ignoring the rule of law and the requirements of justice.
Three Tasmanian judges heard the appeal five months ago (March 2021). The decision has to be 3-0 or 2-1. The convention is that if an appeal is to lead to an acquittal then the decision should be given very quickly (even as quickly as orally at the end of the hearing with written reasons to follow). So it’s likely that the three judges are split: one for dismissal, one for retrial, and one undecided. The undecided can hold out for months …. Unless word of the Etter/Selby submission reaches them (quite likely in Club Tasmania) and provides impetus.