This week the families of the three children who were murdered in Bowraville 25 years ago were told by text message from the Attorney General’s office that a long-awaited meeting where they were to receive the report of Justice Wood on double jeopardy was cancelled.
The meeting had previously been arranged for this Friday for the families to receive a copy of Justice Wood’s report into double jeopardy reform. This review of double jeopardy was the central recommendation of the November 2014 Parliamentary report into the Bowraville murders.
The families were advised by text message this Monday that Friday’s meeting with the Attorney’s office was cancelled and rescheduled to the week before Christmas.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“These families have been shown gross disrespect in the past. They have been ignored and belittled by those in authority. All of this was detailed chapter
and verse in the Parliamentary report handed down just one year ago.
“After a quarter of a century of disrespect how on earth could the Attorney General think that it is acceptable to cancel a crucial meeting with the families of three murdered children by text message from a staffer?
“Justice Wood’s report is a crucial step in the families’ quarter of a century struggle to receive justice for their children, and many had made plans to attend the meeting this week.
“The text message stated that the meeting with the families was cancelled so that the Cabinet could consider Justice Wood’s report before releasing it.
“Over the past 12 months MPs from every political party have rallied around the families so it is almost incomprehensible to see the Attorney’s office being so disrespectful.
“The cabinet can only properly consider Justice Wood’s report if it has had direct input from those most impacted, namely the families of the children who were murdered and who are relying on a positive response from the government to obtain justice.
“It is well and truly time that the government got the message that respect, mutual trust and two way communication are essential in this matter.
“This means allowing the families access to Justice Woods’ report before the government formulates its response so that their experience and their demands for justice are heard,” Mr Shoebridge said.
As Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin told the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Family response to the murders in Bowraville, these families have had continual setbacks:
Mr JUBELIN: Given the raising of false hopes and all of the setbacks, as I said in my opening address I admire the tenacity and the resolve of the families involved. Each time we put in a submission everyone comes together and rallies behind us putting in the submission. They think, “Okay, we are going to get across the line this time.” There has not been one time when I have put a submission in or a submission has been put in on behalf of the families from Allens law firm that we have not had high expectations. I think what hurts the families the most, and I think some of them will address this—perhaps Leonie will touch on this—is the time period that the assessments took to determine this. I think it is quite disgraceful. On the issue, and I might be going a little bit past it, on the submission made in June 2011 a decision did not come back until February 2013.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: And they were repeatedly told throughout that time that they could expect something imminently.
Mr JUBELIN: That is opening up another issue. I have been informed by the families that they were informed by the Attorney General in 2011 that a decision would be made before Christmas, so we are talking about Christmas 2011. Leading into Christmas they were informed in writing that actually it was taking longer than they anticipated but the Attorney General was personally taking the submission home because of the priority given to it. In February 2012 I received a request, and it is touched on in the Government’s submission which I think is somewhat ironic, through the Minister for Police and Emergency Services through the Commissioner of Police to myself to go out and re-interview witnesses. This was eight months after the submission had been lodged with that office. In fact those witnesses had been interviewed on three occasions: there was a comprehensive electronic interview, there was a video walk-through and there was a comprehensive record of interview. There were 11 other witnesses that we had already been interviewed in relation to this issue—that was the Norco Corner issue.
Someone had had that submission for eight months. You can join draw your own inference. The inference I am drawing is that they had not looked at the evidence available, because they were asking me to interview those witnesses again. I did not tell the families that because it was so frustrating for me and it was quite obvious what was going on when I was asked to interview witnesses again. They clearly had not looked at the evidence that was already available, and that is what I am talking about when I talk about the lack of consultation. Then I saw in the Government report that a decision was made in December 2012 not to refer the matter to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Unfortunately, if that date is in fact accurate, the families who have been waiting desperately for a decision were not notified until late in the afternoon of Friday 8 February. I might add that the media contacted the families before the Attorney General’s office contacted the families to tell them that the application had been rejected. I am speaking in strong terms. I am speaking here on behalf of the families, because the families brought this information to me and it has been very hurtful to them. There has been a lot of pain and false hopes. There have been continual setbacks. The families have received, for want of a better word, a kick in the guts time and time again from the people they have entrusted with helping them to find justice following the murder of these three kids.