OPINION: Will Baden-Clay ruling spark flurry of appeals?
I, LIKE most reasonable people, am aghast at the Court of Appeal's decision to downgrade Gerard Baden-Clay's conviction for the murder of his wife to one of manslaughter.
It seems that the essence of the ruling comes down to the uncertainty about how she actually died and the intent of Baden-Clay at the time.
Here is part of the ruling: "Conclusions that he had lied in that regard and that he had taken steps to dispose of his wife's body were properly to be taken into account, as evidence of a consciousness of guilt, in the context of all the evidence in the case. But the lies, or the lies taken in combination with the disposal of the body, would not enable the jury to draw an inference of intent to kill or do grievous bodily harm if there were, after consideration of all the evidence, equally open a possibility that all of that conduct was engaged in through a consciousness of a lesser offence; in this case, manslaughter.
"There were no signs of blood or disarrangement at the house and no convincing evidence of noise; suggesting that there was no repeated infliction of injury and that whatever occurred was quick.
"Post-mortem examination did not identify any injury to the body which the appellant might have been motivated to conceal. That may well have been due to decomposition; but it can only be a matter of (impermissible) conjecture as to whether that was the case."
What the jury and the judges can be absolutely sure of is that nothing Baden-Clay says can be trusted.
From my experience with reporting in the courts, most people in Baden-Clay's position (where there was strong evidence showing he killed his wife) would have pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter at the trial. It seems this ruling suggests he used excess force in a struggle with his wife - but didn't intend to kill her.
While I feel a strong sense there has been a miscarriage of justice, I now worry about a flurry of appeals and defences by other domestic violence killers who will seize upon this ruling as a get away with murder opportunity. Is that justice?