I am asked this question many, many times by people following the Stafford case. What can I say? I explain that we are patiently awaiting the next step in the legal process. Why is it taking so long, they say! Where are we at? Currently the matter of Graham Stafford V The Information Commissioner & The Queensland Police Service is before the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) (APL 092-16).
To recap how we arrived at this point. In 2010 the QPS agreed to hold a review of the original police investigation into the murder of Leanne Sarah Holland. It was to be open, accountable and available to all upon completion. The review was completed in December 2012 but regrettably it was not open, there was no accountability and access to all was refused. Several requests to access the review were made but all eventually refused.
In September 2014 lawyers for Graham Stafford made an application to QPS for Right to Information to gain access to the review. This was refused in February 2015 by QPS. The lawyers then turned to the Information Commissioner who upheld the QPS position in February 2016.
Following that decision the lawyers then filed a claim in QCAT seeking an order to obtain the elusive police review. A hearing was held before Judge Sheridan in September 2016. She reserved her decision.
In March 2017 Channel 7 went to air with a story called Murder Uncovered. The world was told they had a copy of the 500 odd page police review completed in 2012. The same report no one had been able to legally obtain to that time. QCAT held a further hearing in June 2017 to determine the relevance of that information. It will be shortly two years since the initial hearing and Judge Sheridan is yet to hand down a decision on the Application.
There is a Practice Direction in the Qld Supreme Court that judgments should be delivered within 3 months.
In desperation, the lawyers wrote to the President of the Qld Law Society in May 2018 to intervene. A letter was written to the President of QCAT. The response?
“I am aware that this decision is outstanding beyond the target date for the delivery of QCAT decision. Resourcing and personal pressures within QCAT have led to there being a backlog of outstanding decision. I have, within the resources available to me, put in place measures designed to at least alleviate the backlog, Those measures will, however, take some time to produce results”.
In the event QCAT find in favour of Graham Stafford the QPS can appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal. They have always stated the report was released unlawfully and they are the victim. The identity of the leaker is apparently unknown. It is understood only 10 copies of the report were ever printed. Each copy was supposedly encoded.
Which raises the question of what action has been taken to prosecute the leaker. The QPS has been very silent on what action, if any, has been taken to identify and punish the offender. No complaint has been made, it seems, to the Crime & Corruption Commission. The matter was referred to the CCC by the Attorney general but no action was taken. No search warrant has been executed on the offices of Channel 7 or the senior crime reporter who had possession of the leaked document. Interviews have not been conducted of those shown the review by Channel 7.
Now consider how the QPS treats other leakers. Take the case of Sgt Rick Flori who leaked video footage of officers bashing a handcuffed man in a Gold Coast police station in 2012. The QPS pursued him relentlessly for six years until he was finally found not guilty of misconduct in the Southport District Court in February 2018.
It is no secret there will never be a demand by the QPS nor the Qld Government to Judge Sheridan to present her much awaited judgement. This case has been a huge embarrassment for both parties since the 1990’s when it became very evident there were significant problems with the murder conviction. In 2005 Graham Stafford was given early release from prison after serving 14 years and 9 months. In 2009 the conviction was quashed. The DPP was quick to advise there would not be a retrial. Not in the public interest they said. More embarrassment followed when the chief prosecutor for the DPP publicly announced he refused to prosecute the original murder case as he believed Stafford was innocent. The first time he had refused a brief in a 30 odd year career. The brief was handed to another prosecutor.
The QPS are adamant Graham Stafford is the offender and acted alone. They point to the 2012 review to support their position.
Repeated calls by Graham Stafford for a Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Leanne Holland have been rejected. Not in the public interest they said. Despite it being mandatory in Qld for an inquest in a death such as this.