: No body, no parole

No body, no parole

Isabel Roper
Northern Territory

Attorney-General John Elferink has proposed new legislation that will prevent offenders convicted of murder from applying for parole, unless they reveal the location of their victim's body.

A similar law is in force in South Australia, and Bills have been developed in both Western Australia and Victoria.

At the moment, only one person in the NT would be affected by the law: Bradley John Murdoch, who was convicted in 2005 of the 2001 murder of Peter Falconio and the abduction and assault of Falconio's girlfriend, Joanne Lees. He is serving a life sentence with a 28-year non-parole period.

Commentators in the Territory have criticised the law by highlighting the fact that Lindy Chamberlain would not have had the opportunity to apply for parole under the proposed scheme. In fact, Chamberlain served three years after being convicted of the murder of her baby daughter Azaria before her convictions were quashed after fresh evidence arose to support her claim that a dingo had taken her baby.

The stronger argument against the new law is not based on this anecdotal and only partly relevant local case, but the fact that it is not necessary. While a lack of public understanding of the operations of the Parole Board may make the new law appear desirable, an offender convicted of murder who does not show remorse is unlikely to be granted parole in any event.

Alternate measures, such as revoking an offender's privileges in custody, for example the right to work, may offer greater incentives to reveal the location of a victim's body.

ISABEL ROPER is the Associate to Justice Barr of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 138
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