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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FOI throws up another Chamberlain mystery

Nick Calacouros in the Northern Terrritory News (no link available) reports NT Chief Justice Brian Martin has joined Chester Porter QC, counsel assisting the Morling Royal Commission that exonerated the Chamberlains, in expressing surprise and dismay that jury notes from the Lindy Chamberlain trial ended up in the police file relating to the case. The notes and other documents were released recently in response to a Freedom of Information application. Chief Justice Martin said
"The practice is to destroy jury notes "They are taken by the Sheriff and they are destroyed and that should have happened then." He did not know why the jury notes were not destroyed or why they found their way into police files. "Nobody seems to have any idea," he said.
 The Herald Sun reports Porter said:
"Half of Darwin knew who was on the jury. "The story was that some of the jurors used to meet with the boys (the police) at the Darwin Hotel and go through what the jury thought. Perhaps that was true." However Mr Porter said a court officer picking up the notes and keeping them was as likely an explanation as any. "Someone must have preserved them, and with no idea of the importance of them, bunged them in with the police documents," he said. He said the notes should have been destroyed by a sheriff's officer immediately they were found after the trial. "I have never heard of this happening before," Mr Porter said
FOI law is silent on what records should be retained on file, but if someone makes a request and the documents are held, access is to be granted unless there is a good reason, based on provisions in the act, why they shouldn't. This report says there were 145 boxes - fun for the decision maker, who may, or may not, have picked up on the unprecedented nature of the jury notes.

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