CRIMINAL CONVICTION APPEALS
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Attorney General: is it a fact that as quoted on page 5 of the Daily Telegraph Mirror of 11 April, in response to the mother of Ebony Simpson concerning her complaints over the current appeal of her child's murderer, Andrew Garforth, a member of your staff said, "Just forget about it - that is, the appeal - and get on with your lives. This man has rights"? Will the Minister intervene in this appeal to ensure that under the Government's truth in sentencing legislation Andrew Garforth, who brutally raped and murdered nine-year-old Ebony Simpson, serves his full life sentence?
Mr HANNAFORD: I noticed that quotation in yesterday's paper and it concerned me. I have sought to determine whether anyone in my office can be identified with that comment, but I have been unable to do so. I understand the very deep trauma that Ebony Simpson's parents are suffering - I know it is very deep trauma. I spoke to them at a homicide support group meeting at Glebe court and I have spoken to many other parents of murdered children who are members of that homicide support group and who are also communicating with the Simpsons. Obviously, among them are friends of mine.
I understand that every time there is another court case the Simpsons once again feel the depth of misery that a traumatic death such as Ebony experienced would have on them. However, my recollection about the issue they raised with me is that I indicated to them - as I indicated to all other parents at the homicide support group meeting - that under our system of justice people who are convicted of a crime and who are sentenced have a right of appeal in respect of both the conviction and the penalties imposed. That is one of the checks and balances provided under our system of justice.
I also said, if my recollection of that meeting is correct, that it is not open to an Attorney General to interfere in such an appeal; that, again, one of the checks and balances which operate within our system is to make certain that there is no political interference in the judicial process. I am sympathetic to their trauma of having to go through the experience of such an appeal, and I know that they have in their possession a copy of the written submission made by defence counsel in the course of the appeal and that they are deeply traumatised by comments that were made by counsel in submissions to the Court of Appeal. I know they feel very deeply about the expressions used in submissions before that court.
As I sought to explain to others at the support meeting, the job of a barristers is to represent, to the best of their ability, the case before them, to act in accordance with the instructions they are given, and to present the case to the court having regard to those instructions. Even though that may not necessarily represent the personal views of the barristers, their job is to put their client's case to the court as best they can. I understand how the Simpsons feel; how they believe that the system which provides these rights of appeal, these checks and balances, is being abused by the exercise of those rights. That is a feeling they very strongly hold.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Is legal aid involved?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: In these types of cases legal aid is usually available, and I think it has been made available in this case. To my recollection legal aid is involved in almost all such cases. We have to be sensitive to the trauma that Mr and Mrs Simpson are experiencing in relation to this death and I hope that a decision on this matter will be made as soon as possible. There is no way that the lives of the Simpsons, or any family that has experienced a traumatic death of this nature, can continue in exactly the same way as they did previously. But I hope that this matter will be resolved by court decisions in the near future and that at that time the Simpson family will be able to review their lives, having regard to the fact that that phase of their lives has come to some finality.
Having regard to the time, I suggest that if members have further questions, they put them on notice.