Ex-cop jailed for arson, attempted fraud, to be released
A FORMER London metropolitan police officer who was jailed for the arson of his Bribie Island house and for attempted fraud will be set free, after a successful High Court appeal.
Eamonn Coughlan, whose Bribie Island holiday home exploded in mid-2015, is expected to be released from Woodford Correctional Centre later today.
Five High Court judges who heard Coughlan's appeal against convictions and delivered judgment this morning did not order a retrial.
In a unanimous decision, the High Court ordered that Coughlan's appeal to Queensland Court of Appeal be allowed and guilty verdicts be changed to not guilty.
Coughlan was convicted of arson and attempted fraud, arising out of the destruction of his house and a claim on his insurance policy, after a trial before a jury.
Coughlan, who had always denied committing the offences, was sentenced in July last year to three and a half years' jail, to be suspended after 12 months.
He had been on bail after the earlier jury verdict, pending his appeal against the convictions in Queensland's Court of Appeal. The appeal was dismissed in April, last year.
Coughlan had appealed on the basis that the jury got it wrong due in part to a flawed investigation involving "police corruption".
Coughlan's legal team, barristers Stephen Keim, Mark Thomas and Dean Wells, argued in the High Court that the guilty verdicts were unsafe and unreasonable.
Renee Eaves, who has supported Coughlan and his wife while he has been in jail, said his time in jail had been "nothing short of horrific''.
Ms Eaves said Coughlan had been "completely broken'' by being convicted and jailed.
She said once it became known in the prison that Coughlan had been a police officer he was assaulted.
"He was put in maximum security. He experienced conversations with people no one should be subjected to, including murderers and rapists,'' Ms Eaves said.
She had conducted a letter-writing campaign to get him medication he needed for pain relief as a result of a bulging disc, after he was deprived of it for a month.
Ms Eaves said Coughlan's wife, who was from Brazil, had felt helpless while he was in prison.
She said the father-of-four's children had been bullied at school after he was jailed, with jokes about him being a suicide bomber.
"The ripple effect on the family has been terrible,'' she said.
Coughlan always denied setting fire to his own house, claiming he was walking to the front of the house when it exploded, with aluminium panels landing about 20 metres away.
He said he had been waiting to see a man he had met only once three days before, who had expressed an interest in buying a motorbike he was selling for someone else.
Coughlan said the buyer did not show up and as he walked to the front of the house it exploded and burned.
The house was destroyed and Coughlan was close enough to be burned on his left hand, back and face. He left the scene on his motorcycle, going to a police station about two hours later.
Coughlan spent 14 years working for the London Metropolitan Police, where he received multiple accolades.
In Australia he worked as a compliance officer for the Department of Justice and held an ethical standards position and other roles across different departments.
He also spent time in the Army Reserves, leaving due to a back injury in 2012.