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Judicial complexities

15 October 2022 No Comment
Judicial complexities 

Regarding “ ‘No body, no parole laws’ a win for family” (14/10), on the face of it the law passed in NSW parliament on Thursday for convicted murderers who don’t co-operate with authorities in finding their victims’ bodies to never be granted parole might seem to be a very good idea. 

But without any reference to a specific case, what if a convicted murderer is innocent? As someone who was a long-time community member of the Queensland Parole Board and then of the NSW State Parole Authority, I wonder: what about the case of a person convicted of murder, largely on the basis of evidence that is later found to be false? Although relatively rare, such cases of wrongful conviction for murder do occur. 

As is currently the case in Queensland and Western Australia, legislation in NSW now makes it mandatory for all convicted murderers to reveal the whereabouts of the body (or bodies) they have been found guilty of murdering. 

So, what is an innocent person to do? Do they continue to protest their innocence and never be granted parole? Or, to have a chance of gaining parole, do they falsely claim to be guilty and make up a story about the whereabouts of the body (or bodies) they have been found guilty of murdering? 

Who would want to be faced with such a dilemma! 

Professor Ross Fitzgerald, Redfern, NSW

The Weekend Australian, October 15-16, 2022, p 14.

     I refer to Professor Ross Fitzgerald’s letter (The Weekend Australian 15-16/ 10) describing the dilemma of wrongly convicted prisoners unable to be granted parole until they reveal the location of undiscovered victim’s bodies.

Wrongful convictions are a well-recognised aberration in the justice process.

To date, the Innocence Project notes that 375 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing alone, including 21 who served time on death row. A study by Dioso-Villa found 71 known cases of wrongful convictions in Australia between 1922 and 2015. David Hamer, arguing for a Criminal Cases Review Commission stated that, ‘in Australia, we would expect about 350 convictions a year to be factually wrong or left uncorrected by appeal’. 

If the parole condition outlined above had applied in the Northern Territory, and Azaria’s matinee jacket not been fortuitously discovered, would Lindy Chamberlain still be languishing in prison today – unable to reveal the location of her daughter’s body? 

Dr Michael Briody

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Griffith University,  Mt Gravatt QLD 4122 

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