I studied a large number of miscarriages of justice cases from Australia, the UK and Canada for our recent book Forensic Investigations and Miscarriages of Justice, Irwin Law, Toronto, 2010.
In the book, I set out the law on miscarriages of justice in Australia. I can say with confidence that the conviction of Sue Neil-Fraser does not comply with the Australian law on this topic.
Special legal rules apply to circumstantial evidence cases such as this. The law says that the guilt of the accused must be the only rational explanation consistent with the evidence. If there is another rational explanation consistent with the available evidence then the accused must not be convicted.
In this case, there is no compelling evidence to show that Bob Chappell is dead, let alone murdered. If he was murdered there is no compelling evidence to show how that was brought about. Even if one could get over those major hurdles and show convincingly that he is dead and was murdered, there is no evidence to show that Sue NF was involved with that and certainly, not to the exclusion of everyone else who may be a suspect.
The police officer continually stated what ‘we believe’, ‘I don’t believe’ and ‘I think it was coincidence’. Yet the law states that inferences to be derived from any evidence must be matters of logic and rationality, not just matters of personal belief.
The correct approach would be to say that certain logical inferences can be derived from the evidence, that they are consistent with the guilt of the accused and not consistent with the involvement of any other person.
This case does not come close to complying with those basic rational requirements. The old joke is about how a biased person can make black look like white. In this case the investigator actually said that a white boat might look like grey on the water – without any evidential basis for such a remarkable claim. Other observations which a rational person might say were inconsistent with t