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JURY PROBE

Monday, 27th May, 2019

By Michael Murphy

A report is currently being prepared as part of an investigation into the conduct of jury members who helped convict a Broken Hill man of a sex crime.

The man was found guilty of the offence in December 2016 and in February 2017 was sentenced to four years in prison with a non-parole period of two years and six months.

In March this year, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal considered a request by the jailed man (the applicant) to review the behaviour of some of the jury members who convicted him.

Evidence provided to the court showed one jury member - identified only as juror Q - posted a statement to this effect on Facebook:

“When a dog attacks a child it is put down. Shouldn’t we do the same with sex predators?”

Those words, posted the day before the jury delivered its verdict, appeared on an image containing photos of rooms or implements used in executions.

“It is relevant to note that juror Q was related, by marriage, to a complainant who had separately alleged that the applicant had sexually assaulted her,” Judge Garling said in his written judgement.

“The applicant was acquitted of that charge by the Broken Hill Local Court six months prior to this trial taking place.

“There is also evidence which suggests that the complainant in the unsuccessful proceedings maintained an antipathetic attitude towards the applicant.”

Another area of concern appears that another juror - identified as juror Z, was often seen socialising with one of the key witnesses called to give evidence in the man’s trial.

The evidence given by the witness at the convicted man’s trial was central to the Crown case, and was controversial because that witness was the only witness who identified the applicant as being present at the home of the complainant at the time of the offence (other than the complainant).

It was the applicant’s case that he was elsewhere at the relevant time.

The applicant submitted that he ought be entitled to agitate a complaint on appeal about the bias, or the apparent bias, of the jury.

In order to do so, the applicant must satisfy the test that there has been a miscarriage of justice because his trial has not been fair or else been seen to be fair.

“In my view, it can fairly be said that the factual matters raised are capable of giving rise to a reasonable apprehension, or else suspicion, that either or both of the jurors concerned did not discharge their task impartially,” Judge Garling said.

The NSW Sheriff was ordered to investigate the matter, and a report is now being prepared for the court. 

The court will then decide the next course of action, if any.

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