Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crooked Australian Federal Police suppressed exculpatory rape evidence

An Australian wrongly spent more than two years in jail for child rape after the Australian Federal Police and the federal prosecutor denied the existence of crucial documents that would have exonerated him. Pilot Frederic Arthur Martens, 60, is threatening to sue the two agencies for millions of dollars after his conviction was quashed and his 5 1/2-year jail sentence was set aside by Queensland's Court of Appeal yesterday.

The court slammed prosecutors and police over their mishandling of the case. In a scathing judgment, judge Richard Chesterman was critical of the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for not producing flight records from the Papua New Guinea civil aviation authority that proved Mr Martens was 1000km away from Port Moresby on the night he was accused of raping the girl. The documents were eventually discovered by Mr Martens's partner and were instrumental in the quashing of his conviction.

Mr Martens also blames the AFP for the death of his infant daughter, Stephanie, who he says died from malaria in PNG after his arrest because he was prevented from leaving Australia and his wife could not afford a doctor after police froze his bank accounts.

Mr Martens was the first person convicted under Australia's sex tourism laws, when a Cairns jury found him guilty in October 2006 of raping a 14-year-old PNG girl in Port Moresby in 2001.

Justice Chesterman said that after Mr Martens was arrested, his bail conditions prevented him from travelling to PNG so he had to rely on the federal authorities to find the records. "(The AFP and CDPP) undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist," Justice Chesterman wrote. "The records have always existed and have now been produced.

"It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other object to their use in the (appeal) on the ground that (Martens) should have obtained them earlier."

Justice Chesterman said Mr Martens had consistently requested the documents since 2004, but the agencies did not produce the records. Justice Chesterman said the records were crucial and critical to quashing Mr Martens' conviction. "The fresh evidence shows the conviction to have been unreasonable, or unsupported by the evidence . . . at the very least it raises a reasonable doubt about (Mr Martens's) guilt," he wrote.

Mr Martens last night said his case was an example of "gross ineptitude on behalf of the AFP, the immigration department and the CDPP. I was defamed with being a child pedophile," he said. "Both the AFP and the CDPP bragged about it in their annual reports, saying I was a predator, a pedophile," he told The Weekend Australian.

Mr Martens's brother Peter Wheatley said Mr Martens and his family had suffered enormously. "I call it our nightmare of reality," Mr Wheatley said. "He's scarred for life. The wounds are not repairable."

Mr Martens's barrister, Michael Sumner-Potts, said his client was considering suing the AFP and CDPP, and called for an inquiry into the handling of the case. "His life has been wrecked, financially, emotionally, psychologically," he said. "His business has crashed."

An AFP spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the office of the CDPP said it had prosecuted the matter in accordance with policy. [Some policy!!]

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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