The government seems to have more brains than the courts
Convicted killer Graham Stafford could receive a multimillion-dollar compensation payoutfrom the State Government if he is pardoned for the 1991 murder of schoolgirl Leanne Holland. Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Linda Lavarch confirmed this week the Government could make an ex-gratia payment to Stafford, 42, if he is cleared after 15 years in jail. She cited legal precedent with the Kelvin Condren case, when the Goss Government paid out $400,000 in 1995 after he was freed after serving seven years for murder. Former chief magistrate Di Fingleton received $475,000 compensation last year for her wrongful imprisonment.
Stafford, who was convicted in 1992 for the brutal sex slaying of his then-fiancee's 12-year-old sister, was paroled last week, four months before his minimum release date, prompting speculation authorities had accepted an innocent man might have been jailed. Stafford's legal team is preparing a petition to the Queensland Governor seeking a pardon.
Ms Lavarch said the Governor was likely to refer the matter back to her and she would then seek advice about sending the case back to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal could uphold the conviction - as it did in 1997 - or it could quash the conviction and set him free or order a retrial. Ms Lavarch said the Director of Public Prosecutions could then offer no evidence at a retrial and Stafford would be discharged. Ms Lavarch said it was too early to estimate a monetary payout but legal sources said it could be upwards of $2 million. "There is precedent of an ex-gratia payment being made," she said.
The Attorney-General strongly denied that the prospect of a big payout would influence a decision on Stafford. "Absolutely not ... one of the most fundamental rules of law is that no innocent person should go to jail, no innocent person should be convicted," she said. "Rule 101 in jurisprudence is that you would much rather see 10 guilty people go free than one innocent person imprisoned. "This is about the principles of justice. It would never be reduced to dollars."
The above report appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on June 11, 2006. I mentioned this case previously on May 23rd.
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