Thursday, March 31, 2011

Australian man loses $45m damages claim for wrongful conviction on a technicality

A $45 million claim for damages by an Australian pilot who was wrongfully convicted of child sex tourism and jailed for almost three years has been dismissed by a court.

Queensland Supreme Court Justice Stanley Jones today ordered north Queensland pilot Fred Martens' damages claim against the federal government be struck out after ruling it had been filed under the wrong legislation.

Justice Jones ruled the claim for $45 million should have been filed under Queensland legislation rather than federal law and the document had "shown little regard" for the rules governing legal procedures.

The claim, he said, should have been filed under Queensland's Personal Injury Proceedings Act and, because Mr Martens' legal team had not followed the procedures required by that legislation, it must be dismissed.

He also ordered Mr Martens to pay the legal costs of the government in relation to the claim.

Mr Martens' barrister Michael Sumner-Potts said the legal team was considering whether to appeal the decision or file a claim under the state legislation.

Mr Martens spent almost 1000 days in a north Queensland jail after being convicted of having sex with a 14-year-old girl in Papua New Guinea.

However, the conviction was overturned after his family was able to obtain official documentation which proved he was not in the same town as the girl at the time of the alleged offence.

In overturning the conviction Queensland Court of Appeal justice Richard Chesterman was scathing at Australian Federal Police officers' handling of the case.

In his statement of claim, Mr Martens says the action taken against him by the AFP resulted in the collapse of several business ventures in Papua New Guinea.

He also claimed the decision to freeze his assets ahead of his 2006 trial prevented him from seeking life-saving treatment for his baby daughter Stephanie who died of malaria in Port Moresby.

Original report here

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