Parole for Sue Neill-Fraser doesn’t correct the miscarriage of justice

Andrew L. Urban.

 She’s on parole. But Sue Neill-Fraser’s 2010 conviction for the 2009 murder of her partner Bob Chappell remains undisturbed – and controversially unjust. Her two appeals were dismissed; her two High Court applications seeking leave to appeal were refused. Yet … there are  many reasons why Neill-Fraser’s conviction must be overturned. 

Warmly welcomed back into her family and the community, Sue Neill-Fraser has been granted parole, as per her sentence, but after 13 years in prison (since her arrest) for a crime she clearly did not commit – and denied a fair trial – she will be entitled to keep seeking justice, as her family and supporters have pledged. They have plenty of material to work with …

In his 2014 report analysing the case, Flinders University legal academic Dr Bob Moles cited a number of errors that clearly demonstrate how Neill-Fraser did not get a fair trial – see below. (Not to mention the incompetent and flawed police investigation which was based on a false premise, carried out with tunnel vision and presented biased evidence…)

The first appeal, in 2011, was dismissed; but it can be seen as a blatant rubber stamp of the result. (We are not alone in this view: see Civil Liberties Australia’s analysis.) The Coroner’s report had to echo the verdict by law.

A FAIR TRIAL – NOT

The following is a brief summary of Dr Moles’ extensive analysis, which has never been disputed.

This case fails to comply with the special rules applicable to:

# circumstantial cases,
# the law relating to expert opinion evidence,
# the rules governing prosecutorial duties,
# the substantive law about what constitutes a fair trial.

Major evidential problems:

# The evidence of the forensic scientist about the screening tests for blood and that of the forensic pathologist was inadmissible.
# The judge’s summing up to the jury constituted serious misdirection.
# The prosecutor’s opening and closing address to the jury was seriously flawed. (There are many reasons in the prosecution address which amount to breaches of prosecutorial duties and provide clear reasons why the conviction should be overturned.)

Legal rules governing criminal appeals:

The focus of an appeal court is not on issues of innocence or guilt but on whether the person has had a fair trial. If there has been an error at trial the appeal court has to assess whether there is a “significant possibility” that it could have affected the jury’s verdict. If such a possibility exists, then the verdict must be set aside. Individually, each of the above errors clearly warrants the conviction in this case being set aside. In combination they present an overwhelming case. Where a person has been wrongly convicted, they are entitled to have their conviction set aside. When that occurs, they are restored to the presumption of innocence. It is not the court’s function or anybody else’s task to establish innocence – in the absence of a conviction the presumption means no finding is required.

Conclusion (re trial):

There is no proof of death, no proof of killing and no proof that Ms Neill-Fraser was involved in any illegal activity.

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31 Responses to Parole for Sue Neill-Fraser doesn’t correct the miscarriage of justice

  1. Ian says:

    Brian Johnston said it all for me in his message of September 8, 2021 at 9:05 pm (this blog).
    The Sue Neill-Fraser case is often touted by the press as being an entirely circumstantial case – evidently the “first of its kind” to be legally tested in Tasmania. There has been considerable spin and “spiel” on this historic, “unprecedented” court case. The Tasmanian police and justice system often seem proud of the fact that this case, although “highly circumstantial” resulted in a conviction. They see it as a crowning achievement, a feather in their caps. But really the case was anything but circumstantial. If we consider there was no body, no weapon, no supporting forensic evidence put forward by the prosecution, no convincing eye witness testimony (the bit they did present was very unconvincing and extremely vague, probably even wrong), no first hand accounts, just a rather stereotyped motive put forward with the testimony of a man who had much to gain and a possible axe to grind, what are we left with in reality? Not much, in point of fact.

    It is essentially this:-

    Early on the police decided that because Sue could not remember details, this made her suspicious. She sometimes could not recall events, seemingly had no memory of the day and night before, then would recall sketchy details at later interviews that seemed confusing, perhaps “convenient”, or sometimes contradictory, while still saying she was not certain. For the police, this implied that she had something to hide. For the police to think this was entirely reasonable. But from that point on they treated her as a prime suspect. Their mistake came in treating her as “the only suspect” who can be excluded from doubt (i.e. alternative possibilities based on the evidence at hand). They then set out to piece together evidence to support their belief. They attempted to build a solid case around Sue, but largely failed to do so. Other material evidence did arise but they chose to either ignore it or not follow up on it adequately. They found a witness to support their belief, but he was dodgy and tainted – an old, former friend, who had made threats against the family in the past and who was in fact long since estranged from the family. Furthermore it was revealed he had come forward to the police in order to mitigate another legal matter in which he was involved. Sue was essentially nominated by the police. She did not come about as a suspect through the normal means, i.e. the chain of material evidence did not ever point to her. Instead the police reasoning was strictly a priori in nature. In legal terms this is a “nominative approach” to an investigation. It was therefore a nominative case, not a circumstantial one. The reason for this is there never was any circumstantial evidence! Sue BECAME the evidence. She was Exhibit A, B, and C, all rolled into one convenient package. Exhibit A: “Sue lied about going to Bunnings.” Exhibit B: “Sue lied about not returning to the shore that night.” Exhibit C: “Sue lied about the red jacket.” Exhibit D: “Sue says she could not recall making the phone call to “*10#” that night.” The contention of “compulsive liar” was put forward and so the reasoning essentially became one of suggesting that if Sue lied about so many things, she could not be trusted; and if she lied about those things then she probably also lied when she said she had nothing to do with Bob’s disappearance. Her case was “nominative causitive” (a priori), it was never circumstantial. Moreover it was subjective not objective.

    This leaves many unanswered questions, relating to possible police incompetence and negligence. It now also leaves bigger questions relating to possible collusion and corruption. An Inquiry into the illegal surveillance activities at Risdon Prison has just recently been launched. Former witnesses were previously threatened with perjury and hauled in for questioning, after those witnesses apparently “changed” their stories to the media and private detectives. Why threaten those people instead of simply asking them in for new or appended statements? Why the need for a media circus as if to embarrass and discredit those people? Why the need for threats and intimidation? So, was it in fact corruption, negligence, incompetence that landed Sue in jail? That is the first big question we must ask ourselves.

    Further to this, but along the same lines, we must ask ourselves this other question: “Do the police still believe that Sue is guilty?”

    Judging by the look on the face of the now retired Inspector Powell on the Undercurrent show, when he was presented with fresh and compelling evidence by the private detective that contradicted the original police findings, we can only conclude that he must now have considerable doubts himself. There was definitely a quizzical, very worried, stunned and perplexed look on his face. He really did not know what to say. We could clearly see that he had been presented with things he had never before considered or been aware of. It was news to him. But instead of him saying he would look into it, he immediately went back to parroting the same old lines, i.e. the same old “nominative-causitive” approach that had landed Sue in jail. He was obviously not willing to change his tune so late in the day!

    Another way to view a nominative case is to consider it in the terms of being choreographed, as another poster to the blog suggested. The case had to stick to a formulaic narrative in order to be convincing. That meant other possibilities and lines of inquiry (even the REAL material evidence e.g. DNA) had to be excluded in the interests of preserving “the narrative”, to the point that much of this evidence never got a chance to be aired in the court room. It is obvious to many people that this was a mistake in both judgement and motivation on the part of the Hobart police. It will come back to haunt them for many years to come.

    • Father Ted Whalensky says:

      Strange thing– I went to Bunnings last week– I would have to think long and hard– what day was it ? I am quite serious when I tell you that I just don’t store that sort of stuff . Neither do lots of humans . Could give without any preparation–a one hour talk on the pros and cons of the P38 v P47. Or the specs of a River class–Q class or a Daring. Never answer questions from the Policeymens ! You can easily get accused of– wait a minute- -Darryl Beamish was deaf and mute– got himself sentenced to death ! Well done you “men” ! Ray Bailey was murdered by the HOT SHOT DEFECTIVE . Doing you over is their claim to fame ! A trained boofhead can do over a PHD.s Vagueness– drowned one in the Torrens–got away with IT.– Well done you “MEN” ? SNF SUE. didn’t have much of a chance with those of NO MORALS .

      • Ian says:

        Yes Ted, I agree. It is quite obvious to me that she was in an unfit state of mind to provide a clear and detailed statement. I can see that in her first interview and also at times in the second. If the police had been decent about it, they would have stopped the recording and re-scheduled the statement for another time when she was composed and her mind was clearer. They also should have taken the medication into account and this should have been stressed in the court. Sue of course should have remained silent and contacted her solicitor. She just thought she was helping.

  2. Stephen Berry says:

    Hi everybody on this site.
    LOOK at what is going on in Queensland with the problems in the DNA testing over possibly 15 years. It does overlap the DNA testing and testimony at Sue’s trial. Lets let it run its course? But I am sure the outcome must raise very serious questions with Sue’s trial evidence.

  3. Owen allen says:

    Father Ted, after bell ringing at Primary School, at Intermediate (nz) I had an after school job. We all were on detention for gobbing spitballs around the classroom.
    I asked the teacher for the strap on the hand rather than detention. Teacher asked everyone, do they want the strap rather than detention. Everybody said yes but one, who was a piano player and fair enough. Strap on the hand, cane on the arse for naughty boys at high school. Bring it back, in oz they caned the hand, how cruel, delivery pain for punishment is a medical science not delight for masochists.
    The death penalty by injection. Why all the chemical crap, just od on smack.
    I am living in Eternity, I know I am, everything is happening so slowly I have to utilize my time better, I need help to you tube and set up a website, any advice please, not competition to Andrew but to enhance the cause, I have to step out, a to survive, and b, I survive I can help people. Like the airline pilot, if he lands safely everyone lands safely. Thanks Owen, Ciao.

  4. FATHER TED WHALENSKY says:

    Owen/ This National Criminal Case Review Commission–who will be the members ? Silvertail hot shots ? $800,000 +per year–How about 20 Builders Labourers and absolutely no legal training– just the pub TEST ? With the power to call a range of Forensics–And beyond reasonable doubt will mean beyond reasonable doubt–and no bloody screen play bullshit from the Prosecution !

    • Owen allen says:

      Or a good mix Pops, Andrew and Dr Bob would have a better idea, I am just a soldier in a trench, but would rather be a flyboy and have coffee and bacon and eggs for breakfast and if I don’t make it home they will have a drink and a toast for another fallen comrade. ( I have read too many stories, but thats what happened for freedom we arec losing.)
      Owen.

  5. Keith says:

    It appears the Queensland government has major issues with their forensic system. I wonder if they’ve ever lost a blue rag? Lucky Tasmania doesn’t have this problem.

  6. Diane Kemp says:

    So many people have so much invested in maintaining this conviction that I despair that Tasmania will ever change. A change of government would be a start but you still have the power brokers like Blow ( I will not call him a Justice as that is laughable) and the nepotism that is so apparent in the police, justice, legal and government systems. No one in these areas have had the guts to break the code of silence and speak out and I do not believe that everyone in all these areas is brain dead. Thank you to Justice Brett and eventually Justice Estcourt for having courage to implement the law as it should be. Sad that no others have your integrity in Tasmania.
    We will continue to seek justice for Sue because our society is doomed if people give up the good fight for truth to win over evil.

    • tony brownlee says:

      The crap Australian legal system if that is what it is, has doomed us for decades.
      When the Jury Forman openly and with pride says 2 years after delivering a guilty verdict:
      “None of us (the jurors) thought you were guilty but there was something going on so we put you down anywahy”
      One has to wonder what happened to: “Guilty as charged”? I guess innocence matters not these days!

  7. Don Wakeling says:

    Sue Neill Fraser is paroled.But, lookout Tasmania, your Chief “Justice” Blow, who disgraced himself on his conduct of Sue’s trial, is, until 27 September, acting as Governor of Tasmania.

    • Owen allen says:

      How about this, the Acting Governor of Tasmania calls on a Royal Commission into the Tasmania Justice System and Tasmania Police Force.
      That would be truly heroic, a man falling on his sword for the betterment of Tasmania Society. He blows the whistle on himself and his cronies; in other words, Repents; and in an honourable way and would be forgiven as he does his time. Anything is possible. Owen.

  8. LB says:

    I am afraid Brian is right, and who in Tasmania will facilitate a truly independent inquiry? Why would they? That is the worry. This entire debacle needs to be removed from that penal colony and reviewed and exposed so that every Australian is aware of what has gone on and been condoned by so many for so long.

  9. Rodger Warren says:

    Hi Andrew
    Total lack of trust in the Justice System has been generated by the Sue Neill-Fraser case.
    No one is safe until the Appeal Process is modified.
    It seems that Judges are restricted by the Rules governing an Appeal.
    It is pointless having an Appeal Process if there must be new evidence presented for an Appeal to be upheld.
    A Criminal Cases Review Commission is urgently required in order to bring public attention to an Unsafe conviction.

    • Father Ted--AKA-- WHALENSKY says:

      So it’s NOT NEW to the “Appeals Fountains of Wisdom” that the trial wasn’t fair- doesn’t this mean that they already knew the Jury Was tricked- and that they approve of SAID BEHAVIOUR ? SO what’s ⅘the point of just going from one swine to another and expecting a different result– isn’t that the the definition of insanity- all the adults are INSANE ! Would you honestly think I would lend my Motor Mower to a JUDGE ? So it’s NOT NEW to the Appeals Court Judges that someone was DONE LIKE A DUCK IN AN OVEN–when much is NEW to US MORONS ? “THEY” already knew .

  10. Gwenda says:

    Andrew L Urban and other s who have persevered through this most troubling matter have earned the admiration and gratitude of those who would see truth and justice triumph.

  11. Anthony Brownlee says:

    Let us hope she is granted a lengthy media interview where truth will be broadcast

    • andrew says:

      ‘fraid she won’t be allowed to speak to the media…

      • FATHER TED WHALENSKY says:

        She could speak to the MEDIA–Tell the conniving little baskets to get stuffed ! Alternatively– there are ways around such attempts to gag the innocent and get on with one’s pompous life– the fruits of EVIL– As a matter of interest whats the justification for ever gagging anyone– especially those convicted by a stinking living dishonest SYSTEM ? One thing in favour of hanging the innocent — shuts em up. Of coarse “they” want to gag you– does Vass have protection ?

  12. John Ferris says:

    Good summation, thanks Andrew. There must be no slackening-off now. We must keep the pressure on for total exoneration.

  13. Peter Martin says:

    I hope that her Parole is not rescinded without proof and using circumstantial evidence! I bet that the prosecution team and Taspol would love the see that!!!

  14. Brian Johnston says:

    We along with half the world know what Moles says.
    What Moles says is the easy bit, turning it into action is the difficult bit.

    We are up against corruption for God’s sake.

    The authorities dont give a rat’s …. what Moles has to say. This is the reason for 13 long years.

    It is not about pointing out errors.

    It is all explained by Bret Christian in his book Presumed Guilty

  15. moni says:

    The title of this article is says it all! It is the same as a plea deal. If the party are innocent, it doesn’t correct the injustice. The system is broken. It is not based on seeking the truth, being open to the truth. Minds are closed. Bloody mindless rules. The notion of, innocent until proven guilty is a lie.

    The system is crap-a-mundi. From the poorly educated police (full of bias), to lazy defence or poor defence, the blind-win at all cost-prosecution, ending with the elitist-product of the system-Judges.

    If you are ever unfortunate enough to become entangled with these people, run! Unless you have as your backing a Legion of Roman soldiers. A wicked system that has dehumanised the players. Sorry to be so negative.

    My best always for Sue, her dear family, friends and supporters. To be home will be a balm like no other.

    • Owen allen says:

      Thanks Moni. I experienced 2 case studies of Tasmanian Sociology. 2 cases of corruption and I fled when the 3rd case was being prepared.
      We couldn’t, wouldn’t, refused to run in the first instance which lasted 7 years. I have it documented. It will come out in due course still. It is my mission, my cause. We Will Never Surrender.
      Winners Never Quit, Quitters Never Win.
      To ignore Evil, is to become an accomplice to it. Dr Martin Luther King jnr. Owen.

      • Father Ted--AKA-- WHALENSKY says:

        When 400 out of 1000 convicts on the Privatised 2nd Fleet were murdered by the profit motivated SLAVE Ship owners and they WERE NOT punished in,any way–what a bloody good example for OUR Judges to follow– and they HAVE . ITS been a mongrel country right from the very start– Our dear Policeymens have been murdering Aboriginals for nearly 200 years without punishment. Our Jury system is repulsive–our juvenile PRISONS are a disgrace. The APPEALS Judges are part of the same CLUB that rig the outcomes from the Start. Of coarse they can’t SEE that a jury has been done over by the VOMITIOUS–thats regarded as NORMAL BEHAVIOUR IN OUR COURTS. Being on a rigged jury for me was a horrible experience-probably worse than being in prison– you expect something better– honourable even–

        • Owen allen says:

          Well Brother we are on to it now, and I am so glad I was invited to participate; I had a soft spot for Quasimodo, so much so, I was the bell ringer at Primary School.
          United We Stand, Divided We Beg, perhaps we need to wake up Australia, do we want a National Criminal Case Review Commission, do we need a National Criminal Case Review Commission, do we demand a National Criminal Case Review Commission???
          Yes, absolutely, you better believe it, Australia is lagging behind New Zealand, well thats not suprising, also Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, so why is Australia so special it does not require a National Criminal Case Review Commission;
          Culture, it goes against the culture of the establishment and heirachy. Is that correct Brother?

          • FATHER TED WHALENSKY says:

            Owen / BELL Ringer at primary school–? BIT of a HOT SHOT ! You lucky barstard ! Never got that privilege myself–! We didnt have a Bell– (I Nicked it)–Sat on the very top of the Harbour Bridge with me feet hanging over–My brother and I were “molested” by a LOVELY POLICEYMAN when we were little tackers– Maybe thats why I can’t stand the swine–? That sort of stuff can completely ruin your attitude and life–(people– dont like the bastards much) Remember observing my poor dear BROTHER– in many ways totally destroyed in confidence and happiness–Trouble is- he was a good young bloke- ruined– Me–
            I should have killed myself at 10. Funny thing is I don’t feel sorry for myself NOW.– but I’m very very angry about my brother– I was probably going to be a mongrel any way ? But nothing like a stinking mongrel pig Copper ! The State Police here have been so rotten the Politicians sometimes can’t find even one to make Commissioner ! One they did bring in had to leave because of the DEATH THREATS From the other little Piggy wiggies– Was he trying to stop the free jiggy jigs and money supply from the poor Sheilas? Read Michael Finnanes book–“The Pursuit of Justice “- Comments about Police Involvement–paedifiles etc. Locking up Prostitutes at the station for jiggy jigs at night ! There seems to be– got to be– a reason the pigs went after Sue when they know exactly who done IT .

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