Sue Neill-Fraser petition for inquiry passes 25,000 signatures

A petition calling for an independent judicial inquiry into the conviction of Sue Neill-Fraser has now received over 25,000 signatures (at September 7, 2021), according to a statement by the Sue Neill-Fraser Support Group. It comes on the heels of last month’s tabling of new exculpatory evidence in Parliament.

At the beginning of August 2021, ‘concerned citizens’ Barbara Etter APM (Neill-Fraser’s former lawyer) and barrister Hugh Selby, presented the Attorney-General with documents containing details of several serious breaches of the rules by investigators and prosecutors. That document was tabled in Parliament at the end of August 2021 by the Hon. Michael Gaffney MLC (Ind), Member for Mersey, following his adjournment speech in the Legislative Council. It is freely available online; to access, enter ‘Susan’ into the search box. (Our reports on the documents can be accessed here.)

The Attorney-General would be supported in her decision to establish an inquiry by the Petition, avoiding criticism from those who fear or frown upon such a review. The appointment of an interstate judge and review team would shield the decision from attack on the basis of bias – one way or the other. The benefits of such a review would be realised whether the current appeal (heard March 1 – 3, 2021) is successful or not.

Irrespective of the outcome of the appeal, the review would serve to examine and report on all the serious allegations that have been made in respect of the investigation and the prosecution of the case (see below). This would go a long way to help restore trust in the administration of justice in Tasmania.

In the event that the review finds reasons to recommend further legal action, it would provide its rationale to satisfy the public and the Government that such action is warranted. If it found no evidence to disturb the conviction, it would put to rest once and for all the acrimonious arguments.

Ever since the acclaimed documentary film Shadow of Doubt (d. Eve Ash) was released in July 2013, revealing shortcomings in the police investigation, doubts have grown and expanded surrounding the conviction of Sue Neill-Fraser for the murder of Bob Chappell on Australia Day 2009.

Public discussion that followed canvassed a whole range of issues of concern, in print and electronic media, a TV docu series (Undercurrent), an episode of 60 Minutes (both unseen in Tasmania), a stage play and three books. Legal opinion published in the course of media coverage added weight to the arguments for a review of the case.

The late Chester Porter QC, who was Counsel Assisting the Lindy Chamberlain Morling Royal Commission, said (October 2013): “There are serious doubts about the guilt of Susan Neill-Fraser, so much so, that an enquiry into the case is essential to restore confidence in Tasmanian justice.”

Flinders University legal academic Dr Bob Moles has stated: “This case begs to have a single informed and impartial person to conduct an independent review of it to ensure the manifest failures in its investigation and prosecution are authoritatively determined.

“The correct approach,” commented Dr Moles, “would be to say that certain logical inferences can be derived from the evidence, that they are consistent with the guilt of the accused and not consistent with the involvement of any other person. This case does not come close to complying with those basic rational requirements.”

In August 2013 acclaimed Melbourne barrister Robert Richter QC urged then A-G the Hon Brian Wightman MP to establish an independent judicial inquiry; he suggested that would be preferable to a Royal Commission: “An inquiry approach saves the Court of Criminal Appeal from having to spend a lot of time on an evaluation of additional, new and fresh evidence in its limited context – a task which (we submit) is best carried out in an investigatory and non-adversarial forum which is not limited in that way.”

Her first appeal in 2011/12 was dismissed by the Tasmanian Court of Criminal Appeal. The High Court refused leave to appeal in 2012. Both decisions have been criticised for different reasons.

A further appeal against the conviction was heard March 1 – 3, 2021 in the Tasmanian Court of Criminal Appeal; decision yet to be handed down.

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17 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser petition for inquiry passes 25,000 signatures

  1. Williambtm says:

    Tasmania’s curmudgeons or perhaps better described as this State’s cronies know full well that justice in Tasmania relies heavily on the opinions held by the collective of Tasmania’s cronies.
    As an aside, Tasmania’s Legal Profession Board had failed to gain a Supreme Court decision handed down, which had ruled the collective bias held by the appointees to this State’s Legal Profession Board had demonstrated the exercise of their unanimous bias, was at its best, an undesirable propensity.
    Such is the calibre of justice issuing from this State’s authoritative Legal Profession Board.
    So, one must ponder about this ‘propensity of bias’ having been established via the [2] decisions handed down against the above-referred to eminent authoritative Legal Profession Board, which some may interpret as symptomatic of the carriage of justice in this State of Tasmania.

    • Geraldine Allan says:

      William, I’m not understanding your somewhat obscure post — are you referring to a pending decision to a matter currently before the Supreme Court?

  2. Julie in Sydney says:

    Hi all,
    Just leaving here this Sept 8,’21, “news” item, seen today on the Tas Attorney-General’s website.

    Record support for Tasmania’s legal assistance sector
    By Elise Archer
    Wednesday, 8 September 2021
    The Tasmanian Government is delivering a more efficient and effective justice system for all Tasmanians.

    That’s why we are delivering record funding to support Tasmania’s vital legal assistance sector with an additional $2.2 million committed for the sector over four years in the 2021-22 Tasmanian Budget. This is in addition to the funding already committed by our Government and under the National Legal Assistance Partnership.

    This new funding will allow the sector to continue to provide free or low-cost legal services to Tasmanians who need it, helping more people navigate the justice system throughout the State.

    This allocation of the funding includes:

    Tasmania Legal Aid – $523,270;
    Law Society of Tasmania, in partnership with the Hobart Community Legal Service and the Centre for Legal Studies – $498,015, for the Magistrates Court duty lawyer service;
    Launceston Community Legal Centre – $239,610 per year for two years, to provide funding certainty for four years;
    Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions – $220,000, to support victim-survivors and witnesses in the Magistrates Court;
    Refugee Legal Service – $148,015;
    Tenants’ Union of Tasmania – $75,600;
    Women’s Legal Service Tasmania, Hobart Community Legal Service, and the North West Community Legal Centre – $50,000 each;
    Community Legal Centres Tasmania, as the peak representative group for the community legal centres – $50,000, contributing to their important policy work;
    Prisoners’ Legal Service – $26,000; and
    Sentencing Advisory Council – $10,020, for administration costs.
    Importantly, this additional support for the Women’s Legal Service will provide them with the full additional funding they recently requested to deliver their vital services for Tasmanian women on top of their other funding.

    The Department of Justice will also seek expressions of interest from the legal assistance sector regarding surplus funding under our $2.2 million commitment. We will be writing to the sector regarding the expression of interest process shortly.

    We will continue doing all we can to support Tasmanians accessing legal assistance as we implement our plan to secure Tasmania’s future.

    Elise Archer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice

  3. Graham Day says:

    6 months wait. Why is it so drawn out? Something to hide? Snails can move faster.
    A disgrace certainly. This case may be damaging Tasmania’s reputation.
    Is the adversarial legal system, a part of the problem?

    • Helen Adkins-Sherston says:

      Tasmania’s reputation has already been damaged. My daughter will never come back here from Sydney because of its penal reputation and parochial and insular approach to any progress or appeal. I am passionate about the case of SNF as I am a support figure as my friends are – the only person to come into this is the British High Commissioner as he was approached before. Why do you think the late Attorney-General in this State forty odd years ago selected a Police Commissioner from ACT. Enough said.

      • Craig says:

        (Your comment is rejected as your email address could not be validated. If you wish to resend it, please use a valid email address. Moderator.)

  4. Lisbeth Eastoe says:

    There can be no excuse for the three judges on the March Appeal to not have handed down their decision by now. It is unacceptable that these public servants have failed to do their job in a reasonable time frame. What other profession needs to take six months to make a decision? Would a patient be asked to lie in hospital and wait for six months for a medical decision? Even tough decisions need to be made.

    • andrew says:

      Sadly, it is not unusual for appeal judges to spend months on their decisions. That doesn’t make it better, of course…

      • Peter Leslie Martin says:

        Consider the possibility that they may have already made a private unanimous decision in favour of an appeal being allowed, but to make it look better for the ‘boys club” they would prefer 2 for and 1 against, but neither of them want to be the one to be against.

      • Craig says:

        (Your comment is rejected as your email address could not be validated. If you wish to resend it, please use a valid email address. Moderator.)

  5. Tom Cairns says:

    One letter that I sent to Mr Morrison, our PM, was redirected to the Tasmanian premier with the advice that it was a ‘state matter’. As I had already petitioned the Tasmanian premier earlier it meant that I was to receive no response from him twice.
    Early in the ‘cold war’ Radio Peking used to conduct broadcasts in English of a very cynical nature and one of their favourite brickbats was to refer to America as ‘the so-called United States’.
    One cannot help but empathise with their cynicism when one sees that our own despicable treatment of an innocent in this modern, ‘civilised’ nation is a lot worse than some of the accusations we ourselves like to hurl, such as at the Taliban’s curtailment of women’s sport. Human Rights Abuses? We should know.

  6. owen allen says:

    Andrew, I want to thank you again and Eve and everybody on the team, anybody who has contributed in a positive fashion.
    You have all helped me come out of severe depression, now to a point where I am seriously considering coming out of my shell, so to speak, and activating.
    I have been a victim for years of psychological warfare; and I recognise this is the game “They are playing now, with all of us and Sue,”.
    It is just plain bully boy tactics and the corrupt use of power.
    They are our Servants, Paid From Our Taxes. Not our Lords and Masters.
    Let me say this, I have many friends whom I have never met, in places of High Authority.
    When I activate, I truly believe they will also activate to help and protect us.

  7. Graham Day says:

    6 months wait. Why is it so drawn out? Something to hide? I know faster snails.
    A disgrace certainly. Is the English legal system, adversarial, part of the problem?

    Is this case worse than Mr. J. Assange’s treatment?
    They are different but both are a disgrace.
    Some action by a Tasmanian politician, some progress, some hope.

  8. tony brownlee says:

    This entire case has in addition to the damage inflicted upon an obviously innocent person, sunk the criminal justice (even applying here the word “justice” is a sick joke) to new and a “rubbish” level. It is impossible for the population particularly given 6 months have passed since the appeal was heard to any confidence at all in justice. Zero! What a bloody disgrace!

    • owen allen says:

      But worse than that tony, Sue has been inside for 12 years already, Minimum Security, and after 12 years of good behaviour, now in Maximum Security, And 5 days in Solitiary Confinement.
      What Rot is in the minds of these people.
      This is insanity.
      My helper from way back, whom the authorities know of well, Mr R McDonald who had his own Tasmanian problems, as an ex Melbourne self funded retiree;
      Tasmania is a Free Range Lunatic Asylum.
      Thanks Mr McDonald for your help years ago.

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