Thursday, June 02, 2011

FIFTY years on, West Australian man wins $425,000 payment for wrongful murder conviction

The state government has announced it will make a $425,000 ex gratia payment to Darryl Beamish, who was wrongfully convicted and jailed for murder over the death of socialite Jillian Brewer in 1961.

Attorney-General Christian Porter announced this morning the sum would be paid to Mr Beamish, who is deaf and mute, and spent 15 years in jail before winning a lengthy court battle to clear his name.

It was eventually accepted that Ms Brewer was murdered in her Cottesloe flat by notorious Perth serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, the last man hanged in the state. She was found dead after being attacked with a tomahawk and a pair of scissors.

Mr Beamish is the last of a trio of high-profile accused criminals to win compensation for his ordeal. The wrongful murder convictions of Mr Beamish, John Button and Andrew Mallard left a stain on the WA legal system after serious miscarriages of justice were exposed in all three cases.

Mr Mallard was awarded a record $3.25 million payment in 2009 after being wrongfully convicted of murdering Mosman Park jeweller Pamela Lawrence in 1995. Mr Button was handed $460,000 compensation in 2003 after being cleared of the manslaughter of his girlfriend Rosemary Anderson, who it emerged was also a victim of Cooke's.

Mr Button said the payment to Mr Beamish was not sufficient for ruining his life. "It's not 15 years - to wrongfully convict someone you actually take away their whole life," he told ABC Radio. "We the people of this state have murdered a person and to try and put a cost on that is very hard." Mr Button questioned why he and Mr Beamish were not awarded payments similar to Mr Mallard, who served 12 years in jail.

In 2005, the Court of Criminal Appeal unanimously set aside Mr Beamish's conviction on the basis that a "substantial miscarriage of justice" had occurred following an earlier decision not to grant Mr Beamish a retrial based on Cooke's confessions to the crime.

Mr Porter said the government had considered legal advice when determining the payment and took into account the lack of a conclusive finding of significant misconduct by prosecutors or police in Mr Beamish's original conviction.

The government also considered Mr Beamish's previous offending behaviour; the length of time he spent in jail; and the 2005 Court of Appeal's acknowledgement of the strength of the case which had existed against Mr Beamish at the time of his original appeal and its finding that there was a significant prospect that a reasonable jury would have acquitted Mr Beamish if they had access to Edgar Cooke's subsequent confessions.

"Ex gratia payments are an act of grace, made under the prerogative of the Crown," Mr Porter said. "They are not intended to fully compensate individuals for loss or detriment suffered. In this instance, the government is satisfied that sufficiently extraordinary circumstances exist to justify an ex gratia payment.

"Although the 2005 Court of Appeal noted the case against Mr Beamish had been 'very strong' in 1964, it is clear, based on the 2005 decision, his conviction had been upheld in circumstances where it was legally unsafe to do so. "This payment is intended to express the state's sincere regret for what occurred and provide him with a measure of comfort and financial security in his retirement.

"Following the former government's ex gratia payment to John Button, this payment is another step towards closing a shocking and tragic chapter in Western Australia's criminal history."

Original report here.

Some background here on the bleeding heart judge who was largely responsible for the miscarriage of justice.

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