The New South Wales Government is set to introduce new laws this week, which will affect those people convicted of murder and serving prison time in the state, where the victims body has never been found.
‘No body, no parole’ laws have been discussed for several years, and have, over time, been implemented in other states and territories. New South Wales is one of the last to do so.
Essentially the laws mean that where a person has been murdered and the body has never been found, if the convicted murderer does not co-operate with police to disclose the whereabouts of the remains, they will not be eligible for parole.
How will the laws work?
In New South Wales, a charge of murder is punishable by a term of life inprisonment, which does indeed mean, for the term of one’s natural life. However, courts are able to determine a lesser term, however they must adhere to what’s known as a ‘standard non-parole period’ (SNP) which is the time, set by law, that a convicted person must serve, before being eligible for parole.
Currently, where the victim was a police officer, emergency services worker, correctional officer, judicial officer, council law enforcement officer, health worker, teacher, community worker, or other public official, exercising public or community functions and the offence arose because of the victim’s occupation or voluntary work; or a child under the age of 18 years, the standard non-parole period for murder in New South Wales is 25 years. In other murder cases, the standard non-parole period is 20 years.
The conviction of Chris Dawson reignited the need for these laws
Introducing the ‘no body, no parole’ laws has been precipitated by the recent conviction of former school teacher Chris Dawson who was found guilty of the murder of his wife Lynette in 1982. This is a case that has interested Australians for more than 40 years. Lynette disappeared without a trace, leaving behind two daughters aged two and four.
At the time, her husband was having a sexual relationship with one of his students, whom he moved into the family home days after Lynette went missing. He reported Lyn missing six weeks after she disappeared – telling police she left because of marital problems and he believed she may have joined a religious group.
Over the years two cronial inquests determined that Lyn was murdered and that criminal charges should be laid against Chris Dawson, but the Department of Public Prosecutions did not believe they had sufficient evidence to take the matter to trial.
The DPP guidelines for prosecution outline that the duty of the DPP is to “serve the public interest first and foremost.” Further … “The prosecutor owes a duty of fairness to the community. The community’s interest is twofold: that those who are guilty be brought to justice and that those who are innocent not be wrongly convicted.”
There are a number of guidelines the DPP follows prior to deciding whether or not to take a matter to trial.
However, in 2017, New South Wales police re-opened the investigation into the murder of Lynette Dawson, who was still listed as a ‘Missing Person’. Chris Dawson was extradicted from his home in Queensland and charged with murder.
He was tried in a judge-alone trial, which is an option in cases where there is significant public interest in a trial, and a real concern that it might not be possible to find 12 impartial people to serve on the jury. In New South Wales, up to 15 people can be empanelled if a trial is expected to last longer than three months. In the case of Chris Dawson, the case was considered ‘high profile’ – much has been written and publicly speculated about Lyn’s disappearance over four decades. Mr Dawson’s legal team has already stated its intention to appeal the criminal conviction.
‘No body, no parole’ – giving grieving families closure
Now that Chris Dawson has been convicted of Lyn’s murder, Lyn’s family are calling on Chris Dawson to tell her family where her body is, so that they can finally put her to rest.
‘No body, no parole’ laws are underpinned by a desire to ensure justice for the family and friends of those people who have been murdered and the body never recovered. Finally having a body, or remains, can help to provide emotional closure and enable the family to bury remains where they want to, rather than where they have been discarded.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.
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