OPINION – Reopen appeal or risk cover-up? Attorney-General’s wicked problem

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.


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13 Responses to OPINION – Reopen appeal or risk cover-up? Attorney-General’s wicked problem

  1. Cassie says:

    Elise Archer need to resign, the whole justice system needs a over haul. There is other cases happening now in tasmania that dpp/ police/ judges are doing the exact same thing with evidence. It’s actually disgusting and embarrassing. This includes the prison, the whole thing needs a royal commission.

    • Helen Adkins-Sherston says:

      My late uncle the State Attorney-General Brian Miller would be rolling in his grave at the disgraceful behaviour of the present Attorney-General. She is an Archer from the Midlands, a very wealthy graziers family and has no qualms about ignoring the evidence. I have sent her an email with my late uncle’s portfolio and how hell would break loose if anything were to happen to Sue
      My late uncle came from humble beginnings and with his late wife, and two deaf twin boys was an outstanding but passive AG. Unfortunately it is a capitalist society today so many skeletons in this State.
      I am over this parochial mentality here in this State having lived away in Qld for several years.

  2. Melanie says:

    This has gone on way too long with the people in power knowing the truth and either ignoring it for their own purpose or whatever other unthinkable reason, leaving Sue locked up for no reason.
    There’s too much evidence proving Sue’s innocence – yet why Leave her locked up.
    Sue deserves to be free and also compensated for the hell she has wrongly endured.
    It’s past the time for the gov to do the right thing, and stop ruining the lives of the innocent.
    I hope the karma train knocks those involved over for what Sue has endured.

  3. Diane Kemp says:

    Too many egos of powerful people involved here for Ms Archer to do the job she is paid to do!! That is uphold the integrity and confidence that Tasmanian people have in their police, legal and justice system. Sadly it takes a person capable of putting the truth before any political agenda. There is no will by those in power to upset the boys club and nepotism that exists in Tasmania. Instead they turn their backs and close their eyes to this disgraceful conviction that was obtained through lies, deliberate deception, untruths and a story imagined in the head of the prosecution and supported by the judge.
    When will the good people of Tasmania say enough and when will the 3 judges release their decision. Free and exonerate Sue now.

  4. Peter Martin says:

    Come on boys, time for an acquittal so that the real murderer can be pursued. He/she could be easily convicted as the police and prosecutors know all the tricks.

    • Vanessa says:

      Get behind Sue & let her free to live again – too
      much time spent punishing her & letting guilty go free. Hoping it will happen very soon

  5. Gwen Pusztay says:

    Justice delayed is justice denied. Is it not incumbent on the three judges, five months following the appeal, to deliver a decision? Instead of holding out for months (for what?) the “undecideds” perhaps need to acquaint themselves with life at Risdon, as the hapless Ms Neill-Fraser has had to endure all these years. Further, perhaps the Attorney-General could re-visit the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers. This would or should solve her wicked dilemma.

  6. Fiona Peate says:

    I hope it was emphasised that Barbara was previously a senior officer in the WA police so has excellent knowledge of what should and shouldn’t occur in police investigations. She’s a very credible informant and the AG would do well to take notice.

  7. Peter says:

    In her inaugural speech 11 years ago, AG Elise Archer said:

    “I also wish to acknowledge the work of the Hon. Michael Hodgman QC, the former Liberal member for Denison and, of course, former Her Majesty’s shadow attorney-general, who retired at the end of the last Parliament after a career in both Federal and State politics spanning four decades. I am sure all members of this Parliament would agree that he is a truly remarkable person and advocate, and what better professional role model could a person have, indeed a lawyer have, than the ever-fearless and sometimes provocative Michael Hodgman! It is important to highlight that it was Michael Hodgman who encouraged me to first stand for Parliament in the 2006 State election, as did the now Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Will Hodgman, whom I graduated with at the University of Tasmania Law School.”

    Given Michael Hodgman’s previous role in the Sue Neill Fraser case, Elise Archer might think she now has to choose between covering up the inadequacies and not letting down people she admires like Michael Hodgman, or doing the right thing and letting justice be seen to be done, which is what she has always said has always been her style. I could give many examples of politicians in the past who did the former, finding that in due course the public loses faith in the politician who ends up on the scrapheap. Or she could do the right thing (the latter) and end up popular. It’s not an easy choice for her.

  8. Noeline Durovic says:

    Rosemary: Wicked is a word that fits this whole elaborate saga of criminality and lies. Evilness fits the wicked wrongful incarnation of Susan Neil Fraser…Cover up is expanding! The world is watching and Sues life set in suffering on a false premise is dwindling! How cruel?

  9. Rosemary says:

    I think your description of Club Tasmania with the political linked with the legal as a ‘protective embrace’, says it all. Wouldn’t it just be simpler and easier to have a Commission of Inquiry to deal with all that has been uncovered by Selby/Etter and face up to the mistakes and correct them. It is enough to show reasonable doubt and unlock the key to Sue’s wrongful incarceration now!

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