All posts by Felicity Gerry

Falconio case – DPP “coaching” appeal withdrawn

News from Australia this week that Bradley Murdoch has withdrawn his appeal against conviction for the murder of Peter Falconio. The case received international attention in 2001 when British tourist Joanna Lees was picked up on the Stuart Highway just outside Barrow Creek in the Northern Territory and described how she and her boyfriend, Falconio, had been stopped by a passing driver who shot Falconio and tied Ms Lees up. She managed to escape and was found some hours later. Evidence was circumstantial as Falconio’s body was never found. Ms Lees has been the subject of terrible press, largely because she wore a pink T shirt which had been supplied to her after her clothes were taken by the police. I became particularly interested in this case when I broke down in the same location and met Les, the Barrow Creek owner who was witness number 5 in the trial [http://www.criminallawandjustice.co.uk/blog/Barrister-Breaks-Down-near-B…).

Bradley John Murdoch was convicted for the murder of Peter Falconio in 2005 and has appealed before in relation to DNA evidence and other issues. This time he was alleging that Ms Lees had been coached by prosecution counsel. Interestingly, pursuing such a suggestion would have made the opinion of other witnesses as to her reaction on being found admissible – Les, the lorry drivers who found her and so on – long before she ever met prosecution counsel.

Herald Sun reported “Murdoch believed a News Corp interview with prosecutor Rex Wild QC showed that the prosecution felt Joanne Lees, Mr Falconio’s girlfriend and the key witness in the case, was so unlikable that she might have endangered their case, and so groomed her “secretly, deliberately and improperly” to improve her behaviour in order to obtain a conviction from the jury”. It seems like a pretty wild allegation in all the circumstances. The Herald Sun continued:

“Mr Wild said he was happy to hear the appeal had been withdrawn.
“Relieved isn’t the word for that; I’m pleased,” he told AAP.

All decisions on submitting and withdrawing appeals had come from Murdoch himself, a spokesman for his lawyers said. He denied that Murdoch had withdrawn his appeal due to having a weak case.

The same spokesman apparently also said: “It’s certainly not over yet. There’s more to come.” The likelihood of finding Mr Falconio’s body in the outback is pretty remote given the size of the location, the old mines and goodness knows what else but time will tell. In the meantime, the suggestion that Mr Falconio was never killed seems to be well rebutted by the passage of time and his lack of reappearance.

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Pistorius Trial: What’s the charge and is there a defence?

International news is filled with the trial of Oscar Pistorius who is accused of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in South Africa on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

The prosecution case is that Ms Steenkamp was shot whilst behind a closed toilet door. There is no dispute that Mr Pistorius pulled the trigger more than once. The bullets were designed to expand on impact and each would probably have been fatal. This is a short summary of reports of evidence relating to the cause of death, which was not broadcast as part of the trial. Otherwise, the evidence is being live streamed across the world. It is a really good showcase for court TV and how it can work to inform people about what actually goes on in a criminal trial.

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Contemporary Challenges in International Environmental Law

*Posted on behalf of Ros Vickers

The UN-REDD Programme is the United Nations collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries. It is intended to promote “the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation”. The stated ideals of the programme are ‘to (i) direct support to the design and implementation of UN-REDD National Programmes; and (ii) complementary support to national REDD+ action through common approaches, analyses, methodologies, tools, data and best practices developed through the UN-REDD Global Programme.” Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation is a scheme that was first presented to the Conference of Parties in 2005, and adopted in 2007.  It seeks to protect large forested areas in developing countries.  It is a scheme that has been developed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and has received widespread support for the theories connected to the scheme from parties generally, however the finer details and are yet to be determined.  Included in the finer details are issues of indigenous peoples’ human rights and other safeguards.  Discussions and agreements have largely focused on technical scientific and economic mechanisms to implement REDD.

To achieve true success,  such a scheme will depend on the application of the legal rights contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Ros Vickers will be attending the Conference on Contemporary Challenges in International Environmental Law in Slovenia in June 2014 where she will be presenting a paper on Climate Change programmes and Indigenous Human Rights.  The conference will  discuss REDD projects, and whether the REDD projects can in fact achieve justice and equity for indigenous peoples in accordance with the Declaration.  Ros’s  paper will focus on these aspects and also compare the expected outcomes the Declaration and what justice and equity means in the context of human rights and contrast them with the UNFCCC and REDD projects, ultimately concluding that the different areas of international law have vastly different goals however together it could be possible achieve a type of justice and equity for indigenous peoples that engage in REDD projects.  Ros’ s paper will be published as part of a conference booklet. To register for the conference click here

Environmental Law Seminar Series coming to Darwin in 2014

The CDU Law School, together with the Environment Defenders Office NT and the NT Law Society will be running an Environmental Law Seminar Series throughout 2014 for the Darwin legal profession and students.  Topics that will be covered in the seminars include: General Introduction to NT Environmental Law, Water Management in the NT, The Carbon Economy, Regulation of mining in the NT and Protection of biodiversity in the NT.  There is a wide range of speakers from CDU, EDONT, NT EPA, private law firms and the NLC will present and participate as panel members.

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Culture is no excuse for abuse

The 8th of March 2014 was International Women’s Day and I was proud to present the opening remarks at the Darwin screening of the Honour Diaries movie. Approximately 100 men and women came together in the theatrette at the NT Museum and Art Gallery and united in solidarity to combat violence against women and girls (VAWG). Although I’m not sure they expected to hold hands and chant the word vagina, in the context of such an important and emotive topic, everyone took the opportunity to join in and be inspired to take their own role in the diverse Darwin community.

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