Bill Potts Comments On Baden-Clay Conviction Downgrade
Bill Potts, President elect of the Queensland Law Society 2016 comments on the Court Of Appeals decision to downgrade Gerard Baden-Clay conviction of murder to manslaughter.
Potts explains how the court came to their decision and says that many legal experts aren’t surprise by the downgrade. He says the public should have confidence in the legal system and said the decision made by the three Court of Appeal judges, including Chief Justice Catherine Holmes, is the right decision according to Law.
The Court of Appeal after looking at all of the evidence was perfectly satisfied that the jury got it right. That is – that Gerard Baden-Clay did kill his wife. This is going to be on his conscience for the rest of his life.
Interviewer: Chris Allan – A Current Affair
Interviewer: Bill, what’s your reaction to this decision?
Bill Potts: I accept that many in the public will find that this is a shocking and indeed a mystifying decision. But this is a decision according to law, the entire Full Court of the Court of Appeal Queensland, having regard to the facts and all of the law, have found that in this case the prosecution are unable to exclude the reasonable hypothesis that Mr Gerard Baden-Clay, in fact, did not intend to kill his wife. But rather, he may have killed her in circumstances involving a domestic argument. The difference in Queensland is this – murder requires the proof of intent. The court of appeal quite clearly found that there was more than significant evidence that Mr Baden-Clay had lied to the jury, that is, that he lied about scratches to his face, that he lied about how blood got into his car and how the body came to be a Kholo Creek. But notwithstanding those lies, a jury is still entitled to look at all of the matters. But they have to exclude the reasonable hypothesis, that it was a domestic argument and not an intentional pre meditated murder.
Interviewer: So intention is the big issue, the keyword here?
Bill Potts: It is. Murder, which obviously carries the minimum sentence of life imprisonment, requires the crown to prove that Mr Baden-Clay intended to do so. That he planned it, that there was some element of intent. In this particular case, they couldn’t exclude that it was a domestic argument and an overreaction in those circumstances. At the end of the day, we have a justice system that is according to law, not according to public opinion and certainly not according to the man on the corner. Everybody will have an opinion about this, but at the end of the day justice has got to be equal – from the highest, to the poorest, to the wealthiest and indeed any person who comes before the court. In this particular case, the public can be satisfied that, notwithstanding any shock or concern that they may have, justice has been done in Queensland. Of course, Mr Baden-Clay now falls to be sentenced by the court and that will happen in January.
Interviewer: So is it wrong to say that the jury got it wrong?
Bill Potts: It is wrong. The simple reality is this. The decision carefully analysed all of the law, and the jury was not misdirected by his honour Justice Bourne who was the trial judge. What they found was that, having considered all of the facts, in what an emotional case… let’s not forget that there are three young children here who have lost a dearly beloved mother… what has happened here is the fact that the jury is unable it seems, according to the Court of Appeal, to exclude the fact that it may have been an accidental death; or a death that was caused as a part of a domestic argument. In these cases, we have to understand that he may still yet face a lengthy jail sentence… That here is a case that there is a tragedy for everybody involved.
Interviewer: And when it comes to a sentence, what kind of jail time do you think he will get for this lesser charge, if you like, of manslaughter?
Bill Potts: It’s hard to say. In Queensland, the Court of Appeal is going to have to have regard to all of the matters and that would include arguments I suspect the Crown will make; that he lacked remorse, that the disposal of Mrs Baden-Clay’s body was callous in the extreme, but they will have regard to comparative sentences. He was represented by a very skilled legal team, in Mr Peter Sheilds, a fine lawyer, and a very fine barrister in Michael Copley QC. They no doubt are going to be arguing that he could in fact be released after having served the time that he already has, that’s three and a half years. I’d expect that the Crown will say because of all of those factors that he in fact deserves to stay in jail for a much longer period of time.
Interviewer: And I guess that will be revealed in January when the decision is made?
Bill Potts: Justice moves slowly but it moves extremely finely. In this case there is still the final page to be turned and the final verdict as to sentence to be given.
Interviewer: And quite obviously here the appeal decision doesn’t mean that he didn’t kill his wife, it is just is a question whether he intended to kill her.
Bill Potts: That’s exactly right. The Court of Appeal after looking at all of the evidence was perfectly satisfied that the jury got it right. That is – that he did kill Mrs Baden-Clay. And that’s going to be on his conscience for the rest of his life. What they differed in finding was that the jury still yet, despite the lies, despite the stories, despite all of the prevarication, could still yet have found that it was not intended, and that really at the end of the day is the nub of justice in this case.
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