Andrew L. Urban.
A proverbial bomb went off in Tasmanian law enforcement when credible, documented and exculpatory new evidence came to light in the Sue Neill-Case – and that was before they had even looked at it.
Unwittingly but inarguably, the two truculent police responses to the escalation of new evidence that undermines Sue Neill-Fraser’s murder conviction, have fuelled the demands for an independent judicial review of the whole case; the exact opposite of what the police wanted.
How it unfolded:
On August 1, 2021 (and over the next few days) a series of documents authored by former Neill-Fraser lawyer Barbara Etter APM & barrister Hugh Selby detailing new exculpatory evidence are distributed to A-G, SNF legal team, members of the Legislative Council, SNF supporters and some media.
On August 31, 2021, Independent member Mike Gaffney’s speech in the Legislative Council calls for the A-G to take action in case of SNF, and tables the Etter/Selby documents.
On September 3, 2021, Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine (without having read the documents) but having seen reports about them, publicly attacks “supporters of the convicted killer” for making “selective arguments”.
On September 6, 2021, Police Association spokesman Colin Riley also publicly attacks “public discussion of unsubstantiated material … rumour, innuendo and gossip…reckless and attention seeking … We are not …prepared to remain silent as individuals make unfounded allegations against our members without reprisal.”
On September 7, 2021, the petition calling for an independent judicial inquiry into the conviction of Sue Neill-Fraser passes over 25,000 signatures.
On September 10, 2021, SNF Support Group President Rosie Crumpton-Crook publishes a strong rebuttal of Riley’s attack in the Mercury, closing with the question: “If you are so confident in the efficacy of the original police investigation why don’t you welcome the prospect of a Commission of Inquiry?”
On September 10, 2021, Following reports (here and here) that Sue Neill-Fraser had been placed in solitary confinement as the first part of her punishment for writing a letter about prison life that we published, (Sept. 2, 2021) Independent Member for Clark, Kristie Johnston (criminologist & lawyer), in the budget estimates Committee hearing asks the Attorney-General about it. The A-G passes the question to Director of Prisons, Mr Thomas, who says “Solitary confinement does not exist in our prisons. We do separate prisoners from other prisoners and we minimise or control their access to other prisoners; their engagement to other prisoners and staff, depending on their behaviour but we don’t use the term ‘solitary confinement’. and we don’t consider that we use it. (NOTE: reader Peter Leslie Martin commented: ‘I googled “Risdon Prison Solitary Confinement” and there are numerous entries from Wikipedia to Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP questioning Ms Archer and Mr Thomas in parliament on 25 November 2020. The term “Solitary Confinement” is used without objection or qualification throughout.”)
On September 15, 2021, former Tasmanian Premier and A-G, Lara Giddings, puts the case for a full review of the Sue Neill-Fraser case, in a double page spread in the Hobart Mercury.