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‘Grave concerns’ expressed by academics about ‘disastrous’ no body, no parole laws

Dozens of legal academics – alongside other lawyers and criminal justice professionals – have signed an open letter arguing for reform to the “no body, no parole” laws in NSW.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 03 June 2024 The Bar
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The Bridge of Hope Innocence Initiative, which assists the wrongfully convicted and is based out of RMIT University, has launched a campaign to reform NSW’s ‘no body, no parole’ laws.

An open letter has already been signed by over 70 legal academics, lawyers, innocence advocates, criminal justice professionals, as well as concerned members of the public, and stresses the effect of ‘no body, no parole’ laws on innocent prisoners.

Among the signatories to date are barristers and solicitors, professors and associate professors from RMIT University, Melbourne Law School, University of Technology, Sydney and Monash University, and the Honourable Anthony Whealy KC, who is the former judge NSW Court of Appeal, and currently serves as chair of the Centre for Public Integrity.

 
 

“Whilst no body, no parole laws were introduced to provide closure to friends and families of homicide victims, allowing them to bury their loved ones, there is scant evidence they are effective at achieving this goal,” the signatories said.

“Instead, no body, no parole laws are disastrous for prisoners who continue to assert their innocence, exacerbating what is commonly called the ‘innocent prisoner’s dilemma’.”

The innocent prisoner’s dilemma, RMIT noted in a media release, is a common difficult decision faced by wrongfully convicted prisoners, where if they maintain their innocence and refuse to admit responsibility or express remorse, they may be denied parole. However, the university went on, if they accept any acceptance of responsibility or expression of remorse, it “could be received as an admission, jeopardising any options they have for having their conviction overturned”.

“No body, no parole laws create further injustice for people who have been wrongfully convicted of homicide,” the letter said.

“No body, no parole laws in NSW deny parole to any incarcerated person convicted of a homicide offence who does not satisfactorily co-operate in police investigations or other actions to identify their victim’s location.”

“Wrongfully convicted people, however, cannot satisfy this precondition for parole. While the extent of wrongful convictions in Australia can only be estimated, Kathleen Folbigg’s recent pardon after serving 20 years in prison is a stark reminder about their reality.”

The already-dozens of signatories have called on the NSW government to reform current “no body, no parole” laws by restoring the discretion of the State Parole Authority to release an offender on parole in “no body, no parole” cases, and requiring the State Parole Authority to consider a range of factors in determining eligibility for parole in such cases.

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