Truculent police response to new evidence in Sue Neill-Fraser case backfires

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.

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10 Responses to Truculent police response to new evidence in Sue Neill-Fraser case backfires

  1. Andrea says:

    Well its not sues fault, all mail should be read before being sent same as ph calls monitored

  2. Nola Rae Scheele says:

    Can you show the letter Sue wrote ?
    I don’t know how I missed seeing it.

  3. Rosemary says:

    It is sad that the expressed institutional views are “nothing to see here” is supposed to assure the Tasmanian public that all is well in the judicial system. Recognising problems and then identify solutions would be a mature approach. Any person acting ethically in any of the areas from the police on the ground upwards would welcome the truth coming out then work tirelessly to FIX it. That would give properly placed confidence of the public in our institutions. Maybe they are worried there is too much to fix creating a log jam. Patience; one fix at a time. How about fix the wrongful conviction of Sue Neill-Fraser first to get on the right foot.

  4. Michael Purtell says:

    Thank God for people like you who take the time to stand up to injustice.
    Regards Michael Purtell

  5. Robin Bowles says:

    Do the Police Commissioner and Mr Riley have so little regard for the truth that they failed to read but refuted facts that have been forensically researched and clearly demonstrated to them, instead ignoring them and coming out guns blazing, shooting the messengers? Stridently and rudely flailing around with name-calling and so-called ‘facts’ with no basis! Weasel words! Yes, it is a fact that a jury convicted SueNeill-Fraser. It is also a fact that as clearly stated in the Etter/Selby papers tabled recently in Parliament that the jury did not have all the facts on which to base that conviction. And, mentioning no names, whose fault was that?? Unfortunately for these police, those people speaking out, who have read and understood the Etter/Selby papers, are not just doddery old ladies in a knitting circle, or poseurs who want to keep their names in the paper. They are parliamentarians, past and present, QCs and other leading members of the legal profession, Tasmanians ashamed of how an innocent woman can have spent 12 years in prison, plus 25000 Australians who believe this case now needs to be properly investigated. If Mr Hine and Mr Riley don’t understand how pathetic their attempts are to shore up a sinking ship they are, with due respect, in the wrong jobs. If they stand by their Facts, let’s have an independent inquiry and see what comes out in the wash!

  6. Jess says:

    Tasmania Police have demonstrated their woeful incompetence time and time again when it comes to murder investigations. Lucille Butterworth and Victoria Cafasso come to mind. One dismissed as a runaway and a later confession to murder ignored for years, the other with vital evidence destroyed that would have led to a conviction (they are believed to know who was responsible, but with no physical evidence how can they be charged?). Both also highlight the hypocrisy of the justice system. Charges against Geoffrey Charles Hunt were not pursued due to “circumstantial evidence” not being enough. Yet SNF is put away on nothing but circumstantial evidence?

  7. Geraldine Allan says:

    Over past week or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about this, thus storytelling time is here, to make my point of the absurdity of Police Association Tasmania (PAT) ill-prepared 06/09/21 public statement.

    “One day, when Sultan Mahmud (reigned 998-1010) was hungry, he was brought a dish of eggplant. He liked it very much and said, “Eggplant is an excellent food.” A courtier began to praise the eggplant with great eloquence. When the sultan grew tired of the dish, he said, “Eggplant is a very harmful thing,” whereupon the courtier began to speak in hyperbole of the harmful qualities of the eggplant. “Man alive,” said the sultan, “have you not just uttered the praises of the eggplant?” “Yes,” said the courtier, “but I am your courtier and not the eggplant’s courtier.””

    Sycophants are often revealed in the workplace where the ‘suck-ups’ promote themselves unceasingly to impress the boss and colleagues.

    These toadies (at times colloquially referred to as — bootlicker, lackey, crawler, puppet, etc) will parrot the boss’s words and hone their compliments, at times abundantly, at other times praising the target more subtly. The more scatter-brained the target, the easier it is to lay it on. Aaah but … a mess emerges when the kowtower has so reshaped their recipient’s world through honeyed words that the subject can lose touch with reality, depending upon how exaggerated the approach to dupe has been.

    Today I’ve used the phrase “Kiss up, kick down” a few times, since it jumps out to me as what has been witnessed, most especially reading the PAT facebook page/comments.

    Extraordinary careless and obvious writing with sycophant hat on!! The comments have distinguished truly despicable sycophants and most noticeable colleague situation/favour/supporting the unsupportable. The ‘bootlickers’ ingratiate themselves to each other and to those with whom they curry favour. Furthermore, they unjustifiably abuse those below them or who question their questionable comment. They resort to treating their critics as subordinates and/or dogsbodies, dismissing valid comments with contempt and at times, malice.

    I’ve found over my looooong years campaigning against impropriety and injustice that when attempting to ‘out’ someone I perceive as sycophant, then —
    1. express an opinion/preference for something; then change one’s mind. If he/she does the same, I’m onto a ‘suck hole’; or
    2. ever better, express a highly unlikely opinion, or take a questionable stance. A loyal friend will seek to discourage one from pursuing that questionable course of action. A flatterer will encourage the worse tendencies and aid and abet them. I suspect in the more recent publicity; the PAT association fell for this approach and entrapped members.

    • Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

      Geraldine, ‘I so wish to be privileged and told a bedtime story by you’. Your way with words are exceptional and I can only but assume you may have endured a very looooong history of challenging bullies. You perfectly express an example of a bullying situation, that often these sycophants have unfortunately become entrapped in. Your storytelling demonstrates the call for an acknowledgement of a wrongful conviction that occurred and the examples of fealty that is preventing that from occurring. I wish to acknowledge and commend you for your years of campaigning against injustice and like you, I am reluctant to allow sycophants to discourage anyone who has the ability to speak out when the facts are so glaringly obvious. As you say, these people are despicable human beings.

      • Geraldine Allan says:

        Jerry, I appreciate your complimentary observations, thx. As for your “bedtime story”, i suggest much of what I write is not recommended bedtime reading, lol.

        The immediate thought that came to mind as I read your observations about my “storytelling” is that it will never reach the creative heights of those stories told against Sue to obtain a guilty conviction by ‘end justifies mean’ method. Grrrrr.

        Often, sycophants are a product of ‘group-think’ indoctrination. Another wisdom I’ve learned over the decades is — if one becomes desensitised to wrongdoing and misconduct because of ‘group think’, one can learn to live a lie. I’ve witnessed it happening; its challenging to be the one brave person in a group that speaks against the consensus thus not ‘rubber-stamp’ out of fear of criticism.

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