QC fights Neill-Fraser verdict

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 17 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

HIGH-PROFILE Melbourne lawyer Robert Richter has called for a commission of inquiry into the conviction of Sue Neill-Fraser for the murder of her partner, Bob Chappell.

The Victorian Queen's Counsel said yesterday he believed an inquiry would recommend Neill-Fraser's 2009 conviction be overturned.

The Hobart woman is serving 23 years for the killing of the former Royal Hobart Hospital radiation physicist, who disappeared from his yacht on the River Derwent on Australia Day 2009.

Mr Chappell's body has not been found, and Neill-Fraser's conviction has caused supporters to compare it to that of Lindy Chamberlain.

The case has ignited interest around the country as Neill-Fraser's family protests her innocence.

Appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal and the High Court have been rejected and a coronial inquiry has been requested by Neill-Fraser's family.

Mr Richter said an inquiry chaired by an experienced criminal lawyer was needed to get to the truth.

"Having surveyed the material which is now available, we are quietly confident that a commissioner would report to the Government that the problems are so significant that it will be then appropriate (for the Attorney-General) to apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal, using the findings and evidence from the inquiry, for the conviction to be quashed," he wrote.

Former Integrity Commission chief Barbara Etter is leading the push for the reopening of the case.

"I feel confident in saying, after my 30 years in policing, that an inadequate police investigation failed to properly inform the court and the jury about the full circumstances surrounding the events of Australia Day 2009," Mrs Etter said.

"It is now time to review the matter and put community unease and concern to rest. It is essential that as Tasmanians we have the utmost confidence in our criminal justice system."

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said the Tasmanian Criminal Code provided mechanisms for criminal convictions to be referred back to the courts.

"The exercise of this power is generally only considered where there is new or fresh evidence which is compelling," he said.

"Ms Neill-Fraser has not sought to invoke any of those mechanisms," he said.

"There would need to be exceptional circumstances to warrant a commission of inquiry ... especially when options to seek to have the matter re-examined by the courts have not been pursued.

"However, it is important to note that the case has gone through a Supreme Court trial and an appeal in the Court of Criminal Appeal, in which there was no challenge to the jury verdict, nor was the sufficiency of evidence appealed."

david.killick@news.com.au


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