Andrew L. Urban.
The Mercury’s Cameron Whitely reported on September 3, 2021 (online 4.57pm) that Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine “weighed in to the ongoing debate about Sue Neill-Fraser’s murder conviction saying supporters of the convicted killer were making ‘selective arguments’ and that he had confidence in the investigation and legal process.” This will not age well.
When a senior police officer such as the Commissioner issues a public statement about a case under appeal, it denies state officials a shield when not wishing to comment due to the matter being before the court. But that’s the least of it.
Commissioner Hine also stated that “Hobart man Bob Chappell was murdered in 2009 by his then partner Susan Neill-Fraser on board their yacht moored in the Derwent River — those are the facts,’’ which rather undermines the appellate process and perhaps even worse. These are not the facts confirmed by the appeal court. It is even possible that the Commissioner is in contempt, reaching a conclusion in a matter the judges have yet to determine.
There is more. He went on: “Whatever selective arguments are made by her support group or sensationalist tabloid-style national media programs, the fact remains that based on the evidence Neill-Fraser was convicted by a jury of murdering Mr Chappell,’’ he said. See above: the appeal is based on the fact that the evidence does NOT support the guilty verdict. He should know better.
The give-away demonstrating the defensiveness behind this statement is the contemptuous references to ‘sensationalist tabloid-style national media programs”. It reveals the absence of evidence based arguments to defend the conviction.
“Commissioner Hine said Neill-Fraser was convicted by a jury in the Supreme Court, and her appeal was dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Coroner later supported
the court’s findings.” What a bungle…the Commissioner knows (or should) that the Coroner is not free to make a finding inconsistent with the court.
If the Commissioner consulted the First Law Officer (the Attorney-General) before making his statement, he can feel safe from official reprimand, even if not from public ridicule. But if he did not, he can only claim that he was trying to defend the conviction – the credibility of which is lying in tatters. Perhaps he thought he was helping? Like defending the investigation: “I would like to make it very clear that I fully support the legal process and remain absolutely confident in the integrity, thoroughness and professionalism of the original and subsequent Tasmania Police investigation teams, including the forensics experts, and the prosecution case by the office of the [Director of Public Prosecutions].”
He would say that.