An application has been made to the NSW court of criminal appeal for a retrial into the murders of three Aboriginal children in the town of Bowraville, NSW, in the early 1990s.
NSW police made the application for a retrial to the NSW Attorney General Gabrielle Upton today who has now referred the matter straight to the court for a decision.
The families of Clinton Speedy-Duroux, Evelyn Greenup and Colleen Walker have been fighting to have the case retried after Jay Thomas Hart was found not guilty of the murders of Evelyn and Clinton. There has never been a trial for Colleen’s murder as her body was never found.
Lawyer for the victim’s families, Larissa Behrendt, told NITV today that the news was a win for both the victims and their families.
“When I spoke to the families this afternoon the main reaction was that they were just stunned,” she said.
“Certainly what the parliamentary inquiry had recommended was that an independent person asses the application and make a recommendation to the attorney general, but Gabriel Upton has said ‘I don’t want to do that, enough time’s passed let’s just get this into court’, so I think they were really surprised that this was a victory that’s come sooner for them than they thought.”
Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione on Tuesday delivered an 18-volume brief of evidence to Ms Upton detailing new evidence which allegedly links local man Jay Hart to the three killings.
In separate trials, Mr Hart was found not guilty of murdering Clinton and Evelyn, whose bodies were found in bushland on the outskirts.
Under the double jeopardy law the Court of Criminal Appeal may order an acquitted person be retried for a life sentence offence if there is fresh and compelling evidence.
In a statement released this afternoon Ms Upton said after meeting the families of the victims and consideration of the case she had decided to avoid further delays.
“The best and most transparent way to deal with this tragic case is to make an application for retrial to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal,” she said.
“Today I have spoken with the premier, who supports this course of action.”
Ms Behrendt said changes in NSW since the time of the first trial meant there was a strong chance the three murders would be heard together, an outcome the families had been campaigning for.
“What’s really significant is that the rules of evidence are much more developed now than they were at the time so there is a greater possibility that all three cases could be heard together and that’s really what the families have always wanted,” she said.
2014, after a 12-month investigation, a NSW parliamentary inquiry found flaws in the way police had investigated the crimes.
At the time, Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin, who has worked on the case since 1996, said families had been let down by the justice system.
He told the inquiry that race had impacted on how the murders were investigated, saying there were overwhelming links between the murders and that they must be heard in a single trial.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge called the move "a giant step forward in the push for justice".
"No court can bring these children back or end the hurt that these families have suffered but at the very least we now have a real opportunity to right a wrong and deliver justice," Mr Shoebridge said.