By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
As recently reported, the NSW government’s ‘justice reforms’ will include a proposal for new laws to prevent people who are convicted of murder and manslaughter from being released on parole unless they reveal the location of the deceased’s body.
Victims’ groups support the laws, claiming they will force the disclosure by murderers and help give closure to victims’ families.
But critics of the move point out that those who have been wrongly convicted, or who don’t know the whereabouts of a body – if the person is indeed deceased rather than missing – will be ineligible for parole.
The NSW parliament is expected to decide whether to pass the laws at the end of this year.
No body, no parole in Queensland.
Queensland parliament recently debated whether to pass these laws.
The crimes of murder, manslaughter, accessory after the fact to murder and conspiring to murder were all included under the Queensland government’s proposed bill.
‘No body, no parole’ was a recommendation of the Queensland Parole System Review, conducted by Walter Sofronoff QC last year, in the wake of the death of 81 year old Townsville woman Elizabeth Kippin, who was killed by a man on parole.
Both major Queensland parties support the laws, but they simply can’t agree on the form of the legislation. The proposal has therefore been referred to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee for review, and it may be reintroduced to parliament thereafter.
Queensland attorney general Yvette D’Ath is disappointed that the law was not passed last week, saying it demonstrates the government’s commitment to the victims of crime.
‘No body, no parole’ in other parts of Australia
‘No body, no parole’ laws were passed in the Northern Territory a year ago – on the 15th anniversary of the death of British Backpacker Peter Falconio, whose remains have never been recovered.
Bradley John Murdoch, an interstate drug runner, was charged with Falconio’s murder and convicted in December 2005. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum 28-year non-parole period, but has protested his innocence and never divulged the whereabouts of Falconio’s remains.
Now, Murdoch is ineligible for parole until and unless he reveals the location of the victim’s body.
A similar law has been in place in South Australia since July last year, and Western Australia is considering introducing the laws as well.
And as mentioned, New South Wales is expected to debate the laws at the end of this year under the state government’s ‘justice reforms’.
Such laws obviously have the potential to compound the injustice experienced by those who are wrongly accused and imprisoned for murder and other homicide-related offences.
The case of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering her infant daughter in 1980, is just one example of how the law can fail. Many other wrongful convictions have been exposed in Australia’s history, and there is little doubt that many are currently behind bars for heinous crimes they did not commit.
The Innocence Project in the United States has led to the exoneration of more than 300 individuals wrongly convicted of serious crimes, many of whom spent decades in prison or were facing execution on death row. Unfortunately, the resources available in Australia for such projects is extremely limited, and it is unlikely we will ever know the full extent of the ‘justice’ system gone wrong.
In recent months, at least one case of wrongful conviction has emerged from Western Australia, and many other convictions are now in question, in the wake of a high profile scandal involving botched DNA testing by the state government-run testing laboratory PathWest.
Changes to Parole legislation
Despite not passing the ‘no body, no parole law’, the Queensland government has successfully made other amendments to its parole laws, including reducing the number of parole boards from three to one and giving correctional services officers the power to direct those on parole to wear GPS devices.
It is expected that the laws will eventually come into force in the sunshine state as well as here in NSW, despite the potential injustice.