Legal rights ignored in arson case
TWO men have walked away from charges of arson after a legal argument saw the Crown halt the court proceedings.
The court transcripts released by the Kingaroy District Court show Judge Irwin ruled critical pieces of Crown evidence not be shown to a jury in the trial.
The Crown prosecutor then entered nolle prosequi, which discontinued the charges.
The two accused were charged with burning cars in Murgon.
About 11pm on November 11 last year three cars were set alight.
Two were located on Lamb St and another at Clifton Motors in Macalister St.
Defence barristers Catherine Cuthbert and Yulia Chekirova successfully argued the police officers who interviewed their clients did not follow correct protocol.
In essence, the judge omitted the evidence because the interviewing officers did not comply with the police Responsibilities Code, section 34, where interviewees are told they have the right to communicate with a friend, relative or lawyer.
Judge Irwin further found the interviews, on the balance of probabilities, were not voluntary.
"The interview was conducted in the absence of a caution as required, an explanation of his other rights, the absence of a support person and without being recoded when it was practicable to do so," Judge Irwin said.
"This would be enough for me to exclude this confession because I am not satisfied that there are special circumstances making its admission in the interests of justice given the flagrant nature of the breach of this section.
"For an officer with five years' experience in Murgon, where he would have recourse to these provisions regularly in the course of interviewing Indigenous people, there has, in my view, been a cutting of corners which involves at least, a reckless breach of his statutory obligations."
Judge Irwin also said he considered if the investigating officers were cherry picking as to who would be the witnesses and who would be the defendants in the case.
Defence barrister Cuthbert said her client was pleased with the outcome.
A police spokesman said the matter would be reviewed to see why the prosecution failed.
"As in any failed prosecution, this matter will be reviewed by the District Prosecution Review Committee," he said.
"The review committee will examine the matter to identify the reasons it did not progress and if deficiencies are identified they will be appropriately addressed, possibly through further training."
The police spokesman said no further information could be provided at this time as the matter was still under a 28-day appeal period.