Saturday, 19 April 2008

Convicted murderer allowed 2nd appeal

In an extraordinary decision, a Queensland man convicted of murder will be allowed a second chance to appeal for a pardon.

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine late yesterday referred 44-year-old Graham Stafford's second petition to the Court of Appeal.

Stafford has consistently denied any involvement in the 1991 brutal slaying of his then-girlfriend's 12-year-old sister Leanne Holland.

Doubts have been raised about the timing and place of Ms Holland's death, regarding discrepancies between witness statements and the evidence presented in court.

Mr Shine's spokesman says the matter has been referred to the Court of Appeal but it does not mean the Minister has formed an opinion on the matter.

However he says Mr Shine believes the judges on the Court of Appeal should hear the new evidence.

A criminologist has welcomed a second judicial review of a Queensland murder conviction.

Queensland criminologist Paul Wilson says he contributed to the new petition for pardon.

"I think the evidence very strongly points to the fact that Graham Stafford is innocent of the crime, that this has been a miscarriage of justice, and I'm hopeful that the Appeal Court will see it in this way," he said.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties has called for reform to the way suspected miscarriages of justice are handled.

Civil libertarian Terry O'Gorman says Queensland should adopt the United Kingdom's approach, where such cases are referred to a special criminal cases review commission.

"With those reforms I dare say that Mr Stafford's matter would have been referred back to the Court of Appeal earlier and with those reforms in place it means that if there is another Mr Stafford and that person in the future can't raise the funds then they'll still have a chance to remedy their miscarriage of justice," he said.

Quote: Better late than never?

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