Mahmoud Hrouk sexual assault and murder: Sydney man Aymen Terkmani charged


NICK RALSTON

Police have arrested a 22-year-old man over the murder and sexual assault of Sydney teenager Mahmoud Hrouk.

The man accused of raping and murdering Sydney teenager Mahmoud Hrouk has been formally refused bail.

Aymen Terkmani, 22, of Fairfield East, was arrested on Thursday and charged with murder and aggravated sexual assault. 

He did not appear in person before Fairfield Local Court on Friday. His lawyer did not request bail.

Supporters of Aymen Terkmani, accused of murdering Mahmoud Hrouk, leave Fairfield Local Court.Supporters of Aymen Terkmani, accused of murdering Mahmoud Hrouk, leave Fairfield Local Court.

Associates of the accused reacted angrily to journalists’ questions outside court, with one man throwing away a reporter’s microphone.

READ MORE:
Parents find bloodied body thought to be of son
Aussie teen was seen with a group of boys before being killed
Sydney teenager sexually assaulted before being bludgeoned to death

The body of Mahmoud, a 16-year-old former Granville High School student, was found beaten and unrecognisable in a derelict house on Belmore Street in Fairfield East on May 17.

The Fairfield house where the body of Mahmoud Hrouk was found.The Fairfield house where the body of Mahmoud Hrouk was found.

It is understood Mahmoud met Terkmani, whom he considered a friend, at Villawood McDonald’s on May 16. The pair arrived at 6.30pm and stayed for about an hour. 

A 22-year-old man has been charged over Mahmoud Hrouk's sexual assault and murder.

A 22-year-old man has been charged over Mahmoud Hrouk’s sexual assault and murder. Photo: Facebook

Mahmoud called his mother about 9.40pm but the call cut out.

The bike he had ridden to the McDonald’s was seen on Mitchell Street that night and found on Melaleuca Street the next day.

Mahmoud’s mother, Maha Dunia, has described her son as “a beautiful boy” and her best friend.

Police said he was hardworking and had no criminal history. Their investigations are ongoing.

Terkmani will appear in Campbelltown Local Court via video link next week.


Police have revealed Mahmoud Hrouk, 16 was sexually assaulted before he was beaten to death.

His bloodied body was found by his family in an abandoned house after a trip to McDonald’s. In a disturbing twist, police now say 16-year-old Mahmoud Hrouk was also sexually violated.

Panicked relatives stumbled across his body in Fairfield East in Sydney’s west, two months ago. He had been bashed to death.

Detectives hunting his killer have now revealed Mahmoud was sexually assaulted either before or at the time of his death, Fairfax reports.

The level of brutality Mahmoud endured has shocked police.

Mahmoud Hrouk, 16 was reported missing on Saturday May 16, 2014. He was last seen alive a

Mahmoud Hrouk, 16 was reported missing on Saturday May 16, 2014. He was last seen alive at a Villawood McDonalds. Source: Facebook

Maha Dunia with a photo of her murdered son Mahmoud Hrouk.

Maha Dunia with a photo of her murdered son Mahmoud Hrouk. Source: News Corp Australia

The derelict house in Villawood where Mahmoud Hrouk was murdered.

The derelict house in Villawood where Mahmoud Hrouk was murdered. Source: News Corp Australia

“In my experience, I’ve never seen anything like it … it’s gut-wrenching. What happened to this boy is terrible; it shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Detective Sergeant Olivares told Fairfax, describing the boy as a “model child”.

“This is separate from organised crime; it’s a more individual, more opportunistic crime. We certainly don’t think it was planned.”

Police are struggling to find a motive for such a violent murder.

He was found covered in wounds and suffered internal injuries also. Until now, it was thought that was the only horror he endured, but after the sexual assault revelations, the full extent of Mahmoud’s suffering has become clear.

Whoever killed Mahmoud Hrouk could possibly have taken his bloodied clothing, including running shoes and long dark pants, police say.

Mahmoud’s mother Maha Dunia last spoke to her son at 9.40pm on Saturday, May 16, when he asked her to pick him up from a friend’s place on Mitchell St but the call cut out halfway through the conversation.

He was last seen eating a burger at Villawood McDonald’s about 6.30pm.

Photo

The family of Mahmoud Hrouk need to know why their son was brutally killed. Source: Facebook

The next morning, after searching the streets of Villawood and Fairfield East, the family were told to check a vacant house on Belmore St, where local teens had been seen gathering in ­recent months.

It was inside they made the traumatic discovery.

“I need to know: why would you bash a 16-year-old? Are you Muslim, Jewish, Christian? You cannot do this in any religion. You cannot kill,” Ms Dunia told the Daily Telegraph.

“God takes the soul from us, not you.”

Holding a photo of her son, Ms Dunia said: “I need to know why. I know it’s not going to bring my son back but I need to know why. I need to know what did he do to deserve this.

“No mother in the world deserves this pain. To lose a son, that’s it. You feel like the whole world doesn’t mean anything to you. You feel like something from your heart is taken out.”

Bride-to-be Stephanie Scott missing, one week before her wedding-Vincent Stanford CHARGED WITH MURDER


 Home video footage of missing bride-to-be Stephanie Scott

MISSING bride-to-be Stephanie Scott did not show up to a Sunday evening dinner she’d arranged with fiance Aaron Leeson-Woolley just hours earlier.

The popular teacher was reported missing on Monday afternoon and fears are growing that she may have crashed her car in a remote location.

The family are talking to police and have called on the community to help with the search through social media, as well as hiring a private helicopter to search from the air.

Mr Leeson-Woolley made an emotional appearance on Channel 7 News, where he said he doesn’t believe his wife-to-be had cold feet.

“I just want her to be here so we can get on with the stuff we need to do,” he said. “I don’t know where to go from here, where to search or anything.”

Ms Scott had spent Saturday in their home town of Leeton buying cufflinks for the wedding, shopping and talking to her sister Robyn about the big day, which had been scheduled for this Saturday.

The engaged couple spent that evening apart, with Mr Leeson-Woolley staying the night at his parent’s home in Canowindra, three half hours drive away.

Stephanie Scott, with her mother. Picture: Facebook

Stephanie Scott, with her mother. Picture: Facebook Source: Facebook

Stephanie Scott has gone missing a week before her wedding.

Stephanie Scott has gone missing a week before her wedding. Source: News Corp Australia

The couple texted each other back and forth at about 10am on Sunday to arrange a dinner that evening at Goodfella’s Restaurant.

After that, Ms Scott went to the school where she worked, Leeton High, where she was seen leaving some work for the teacher who would replace her before sending an email to the bus company hired for the wedding just before 1pm.

“There is no way she had cold feet. Something has happened to her”

After travelling back home Mr Leeson-Woolley didn’t see his fiancee all afternoon before she failed to show up for the dinner, booked for 8pm.

Stephanie (right), pictured at a wedding. Picture: Facebook

Stephanie (right), pictured at a wedding. Picture: Facebook Source: Facebook

Facebook image of Ms Scott,and husband-to-be Aaron Woolley.

Facebook image of Ms Scott, and husband-to-be Aaron Woolley. Source: Facebook

“He was a bit worried but thought she might have gone to a friends or something,” Stephanie’s sister Robyn said. “He tried her phone a few times as well.’’

By Monday morning when he still hadn’t heard from her, Mr Leeson-Woolley contacted Stephanie’s mother and sisters, thinking she may have contacted them, then reported her missing to Leeton police.

The couple were due to marry this Saturday, with 100 guests invited to a former golf club at Eugowa in the states south west.

Her mother Merrilyn, who last spoke with her daughter on Friday, told The Daily Telegraph Stephanie was looking forward to the big day.

“She was talking about the wedding and was making little craft things for the reception,” she said.

SERIAL COP ABUSER SMILES AS HE WALKS AWAY WITH $1000 FINE

“There is no way she had cold feet. Something has happened to her.”

“Your mind keeps thinking of the worst. I cant eat or sleep. You hope maybe she has had an accident and can’t reach her phone.’’

Stephanie Scott was last seen at Leeton High School where she teaches English and drama.

Stephanie Scott was last seen at Leeton High School where she teaches English and drama. Source: Supplied

Mr Leeson-Woolley told Fairfax Regional Media this week that the disappearance was “really out of character.”

“We’re really worried. (Someone) said they saw her at Woolworths around 1pm on Sunday, but no one has seen or heard anything since.

“We just want her to be okay,” he said.

Police said Ms Scott, who teaches English and drama, may be travelling in a red Mazda 3 sedan with registration BZ-19-CD.

“It was her sister Kim’s birthday on Monday and Stephanie didn’t make contact and that is not her.

Ms Scott may be travelling in a red Mazda 3 sedan. Picture supplied by NSW Police

Ms Scott may be travelling in a red Mazda 3 sedan. Picture supplied by NSW Police Source: Supplied

Leeton High School, where Ms Scott works.

Leeton High School, where Ms Scott works. Source: Supplied

She has two sisters and two brothers and they are always in contact.’’

The community have responded to a call put out on facebook by another of Stephanie’s sisters Kim Scott, who asked for help with the search

“Please anyone available or who can make themselves available,” she wrote on Wednesday.

“Get yourselves to Leeton and the surrounding areas and check those roads.”

The post has already drawn nearly 200 shares, with people driving hundreds of kilometres to help with the search.

“I’ve driven between Wagga and Leeton (about 126km), stopping to drive down some random roads,” Missy Dempsey wrote, “A lot of them you need a 4WD though. I’m going to head back and search around Narrandera.”

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Griffith Police on 6969 4310.

GBC Jury retired for Deliberations


update

12:43pm: Justice Byrne acknowledged the jury had requested for a copy of his summation of the closing addresses from the prosecution and defence counsels.

He declined the request and asked the jury to give a written note to the Bailiff requesting for parts, or all, of his summation to be read again in open court.

The jury has resumed its deliberations.


This is what these last days are about. Who is telling the truth, the facts, the most likely scenarios? The jury will NEED to apply this to everything they have heard and seen

bs_meter

All previous threads and history including trial can be found clicking on link below http://aussiecriminals.com.au/category/gerard-baden-clay/

List of Trial Witnesses as they appear here

 

Sometime Thursday the jury might be directed to go and deliberate on their verdict in this trial! It may take an hour, it may take 8 days (Rolf Harris Trial) How will they know they have got it right? They will not, in my opinion this is no LAB, no science. It comes down to people and their gut feelings. The common sense they have accumulated over their life times

Otherwise we would have computers collating the data and telling us how it is…(Thank god that is not the case)

It comes down to people like me or you who will decide the fate of Gerard, the one and only suspect and person on trial accused of killing his wife Allison. Mother of their 3 girls.  (for a pittance I might remind you)

So what now? All the evidence, all the facts, the fiction, the lies, the truth, the witnesses with an agenda. Either via family ties, monetary gain or loss, fame, fortune or indeed notoriety. It all ends with the jury. The time has come for our legal system to accept the judgement of a select group who represent our community.

SPACE RESERVED FOR WHEN DELIBERATIONS BEGIN

How about this Unlawful Killing option (Manslaughter?)

What the law says

Sections 303 of the Criminal Code Queensland states:

A person who unlawfully kills another under such circumstances as not to constitute murder is guilty of manslaughter

 

What the police must prove

In order for the Police to prove their case at Court, they must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. The accused killed the deceased and that he did so unlawfully. Unlawful simply means not authorised, justified or excused by law. It is not an element of the offence that the accused intended to kill the deceased or to do the deceased any particular harm.
  2. It will be necessary for the Police in every offence to prove that the accused was the person who committed the offence. Click here to learn more about identification evidence

Maximum penalty

The Maximum penalty for the offence of Unlawful Killing/Manslaughter is life imprisonment.

Which court will hear the matter

This matter is indictable which means it is dealt with in the Supreme Court.

Possible defences

Possible defences to this offence include but are not limited to

  1. Self Defence
  2. Defence of another person
  3. Insanity
  4. Identification i.e. not the accused
  5. The killing was not unlawful
  6. An ordinary person in the position of the accused would not have foreseen the death of the deceased as a possible outcome of his act.
  7. The person is not dead i.e. death cannot be proved

What about Murder? here is what the law says

What the law says

Sections 302 of the Criminal Code Queensland states:

  1. A person who unlawfully kills another under any of the following circumstances, thatistosay-
    • (a) if the offender intends to cause the death of the person killed or that of some other person or if the offender intends to do to the person killed or to some other person some grievous bodily harm;
    • (b) if the death is caused by means of an act done in the prosecution of an unlawful purpose, which act is of such a nature as to be likely to endanger human life;
    • (c) if the offender intends to do grievous bodily harm to some person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a crime which is such that the offender may be arrested without warrant, or for the purpose of facilitating the flight of an offender who has committed or attempted to commit any such crime;
    • (d) if death is caused by wilfully stopping the breath of any person for either of such purposes;

is guilty of murder.

What the police must prove

In order for the Police to prove their case at Court, they must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. The person is dead;
  2. The accused killed him; that is he caused his death; and
  3. The accused did so intending to cause his death, or at least to cause him grievous bodily harm

It will be necessary for the Police in every offence to prove that the accused was the person who committed the offence. Click here to learn more about identification evidence.

Maximum penalty

The Maximum penalty for the offence of Murder is life imprisonment.

Which court will hear the matter

This matter is indictable which means it is dealt with in the Supreme Court.

Possible defences

Possible defences to this offence include but are not limited to

  1. The person is not dead.
  2. The death was not caused by the actions of the accused
  3. Self defence or in defence of another
  4. Accident
  5. Identification i.e. not the accused.
  6. Insanity
  7. Provocation (This is a partial defence only, which may reduce the charge to manslaughter.)

 

Max Sica found Not Guilty of child’s rape and abuse


This case is one I have not been following since it went to trial, but I see it reported this morning that Sica has been found Not Guilty of the 21 sex offences that date back from 2004. Report from Courier Mail below… 

Interesting that it has been reported that “Sica has become the latest in a growing long line of infamous criminals to win judge only trials – including notorious pedophiles Dennis Ferguson and Roy Schloss.” 

While Judge only trials are rare and difficult to obtain, if a trend develops such as has been suggested, I would be surprised if there are not many more defendant’s in the future who try to argue for a judge only trial.

   

Convicted triple murderer Max Sica found not guilty of child’s rape, abuse

CONVICTED triple murderer Massimo “Max” Sica has been found not guilty of raping and repeatedly abusing a young girl over a four year period.

Sica – who is already serving a record 35-years in jail for the 2003 murder of the Singh siblings – is the latest in a growing list of reviled convicted criminals – including infamous pedophiles Dennis Ferguson and Roy Schloss – to be a acquitted after a rare judge only trial.

Brisbane District Court judge Michael Shanahan delivered the verdict to a stunned packed court – including Sica’s parents Carlo and Anna and his siblings – on Friday morning.

Judge Shanahan deliberated almost two weeks before handing down his verdict 21 sex offences – including child rape.

Sica received three life terms of imprisonment – an”d ordered to serve a minimum of 35-years – for the savage murder of the Singh siblings Neelma, 24, Kunal, 18, and Sidhi, 12.

Judge Shanahan, in his written 50-page decision, said medical evidence revealed the girl physically showed all the hallmarks of being a virgin and could not have been subjected to the sexual attack alleged.

“There is one fact … which causes me significant concern,” he said.

“Considering the medical evidence I cannot be satisfied beyond a seasonable doubt that the penetrative (sexual) acts occurred as described by the (girl).”

Judge Shanahan also commented on the girl’s “credibility”, saying her evidence raised a “number of issues of concern.”

“I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that any of the counts have been proved … (and) verdicts of not guilty are entered to each of the counts.”

Sica, who stood ramrod straight in the dock of Court 31 for the verdict, breathed out deeply and smiled as he heard Judge Shanahan’s decision.

Outside court, Sica’s jubilant brother, Claudio, said: “Justice has finally been served, but not fully.”

“There was no other verdict that could have been given.”

Sica has become the latest in a growing long line of infamous criminals to win judge only trials – including notorious pedophiles Dennis Ferguson and Roy Schloss.

Sica was granted the judge-only trial after his lawyers convinced the court Sica’s notoriety would make it almost impossible to find and impartial panel of jurors anywhere in Queensland.

Sica early last month pleaded not guilty to 21 sex offences, including two counts of rape and one of maintaining a sexual relationship with the child between November 15, 2004 and September 10, 2008.

Then aged 35 to 39, he was also charged with nine counts each of unlawful carnal knowledge and indecent dealing of a child under 16.

The court had been told Sica allegedly had sex with the child, then aged between nine and 13, more than 100 times during the four-year period.

In July, a Brisbane Supreme Court jury found Sica guilty of the 2003 murder of the Singh siblings.

He was sentenced to three life terms, with a record minimum non-parole period of 35-years.

Sica has appealed those verdicts, with a two day hearing scheduled to start in the Court of Appeal in Brisbane on May 27.

Prison officers arrested on drug trafficking ring with crims at Barwon Prison


This comes as no surprise actually folks but the ramifications will be wide and far…MORE TO COME

UPDATE 11/07/12

EXCLUSIVE: KILLER bikie Christopher Wayne Hudson and one of Australia’s most feared hitmen were allegedly able to run a drug ring with corrupt guards inside Victoria’s most secure jail.

 

Three Barwon Prison officers were arrested during raids in Geelong and the northern suburbs yesterday, after an eight-month investigation. Two have since been charged with drug offences.

Sources close to the operation claim one of the guards, a 40-year-old man from Grovedale, had formed a close relationship with the two killers and had been monitored having long conversations in their cells, as well as passing notes and other items under their doors.

Authorities are also concerned about information passed between the cells and out of the prison.

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Charlie Bezzina: Risk of mixing with the dark side

Barwon Prison security faces fierce scrutiny

Hudson, a Hells Angel, is serving a minimum of 35 years in jail over the 2007 CBD shootings of father of three Brendan Keilar, who died, and Dutch backpacker Paul de Waard.

The contract killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is serving 32 years for the murders of Dorothy and Ramon Abbey in 1987.

Charges against him over the murders of police informers Terence and Christine Hodson were dropped.

The veteran trigger man is linked to some of Australia’s most infamous underworld figures and is suspected of multiple murders.

Last night a 40-year-old Grovedale man was charged with trafficking a drug of dependence, misconduct in public office, possessing an unregistered firearm, possessing a prohibited weapon and possessing and using a drug of dependence, while a 40-year-old Norlane man was charged with possessing and using a drug of dependence.

Both were bailed to appear in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court on 26 September.

A 31-year-old female prison officer from Norlane was interviewed and released pending further inquiries.

A 46-year-old Norlane man and an 18-year-old Delahey man, who were not Corrections Victoria staff, were released pending further inquiries.

Operation Puli, run by Victoria Police drug taskforce detectives, started in November after intelligence was passed on by Corrections Victoria.

Houses were raided in the Geelong area and at Delahey, in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, from 7am yesterday.

Cannabis and prescription medication were seized.

Victoria Police acting Deputy Commissioner Jeff Pope said the suspect behaviour was confined to Barwon Prison, the state’s highest-security prison.

“It does seem to be isolated to this core group of prison officers,” Mr Pope said.

“One or two of these guards has formed a relationship with a small group of inmates that is inappropriate.”

Acting Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard said the guards worked across the prison and were not restricted to one particular section

An aerial shot of Barwon Prison WHERE SCREWS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED AMID A drug trafficking RING INSIDE THE PRISON!

UPDATE 3.15PM 10/07/12

Those arrested were a 40-year-old Grovedale man, a 31-year-old Norlane woman, a 41-year-old Norlane man and a 46-year-old Norlane man.

Victoria Police officers swooped on several properties in the Geelong region connected to Barwon Prison from 7am, completing searches a short time ago.

Four prison officers have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation by police and Corrections Victoria which has linked guards to inmates.

PRISON officers accused of running a drug trafficking ring with criminals have been arrested in a series of co-ordinated raids.

Victoria Police officers swooped on several properties in the Geelong region connected to Barwon Prison from 7am, completing searches a short time ago.

The Herald Sun understands four prison officers have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation by police and Corrections Victoria which has linked guards to inmates.

Barwon Prison, near Geelong, houses the state’s worst convicted criminals, among them influential organised crime figures.

Gangland killer Evangelos Goussis, drug boss Tony Mokbel, and middle-eastern crime gang members are all housed at Barwon Prison, however no identities of inmates connected to today’s raids have been revealed.

Inappropriate relationships between staff and inmates at Corrections Victoria’s jail are considered a major security risk.

Staff at Barwon came under unprecedented levels of scrutiny following the death of  Carl Williams.

More to come …

UPDATE-Gerard Baden-Clay will return to court on September 3 2012


Previous threads can be found using the links below, One being very first and so on…

One (26/04/12) here Two (14/05/12)  here Three (17/05/12) here Four (20/05/2012) here Five  (23/05/12) here Six (26/05/12) here Seven (28/05/12) here Eight (30/0512) here Nine (02/06/12) here Ten (08/06/12) here Eleven (11/06/12) here  Twelve 13/06/12 here Thirteen 17/06/12 here Fourteen 20/06/12 here Fifteen 22/06/12 here Sixteen 24/06/12 here Seventeen 26/06/12 here

A MAGISTRATE said he was “flabbergasted” that police would need four to five months to scour Gerard Baden-Clay’s finances – a process set to delay court proceedings.

The Money trail will take months to unravel

Prosecutor Danny Boyle told Magistrate Chris Callaghan they would be unable to give Baden-Clay’s defence team the full brief of evidence because an investigative accountant would need until mid November to analyse bank accounts and insurance policies.

Baden-Clay, 41, who did not appear today, is charged with murdering his wife Allison on April 19 and dumping her body on the banks of a creek.

An earlier court hearing was told Baden-Clay is $1 million in debt and stood to gain about that from his wife’s life insurance and superannuation policies.

Mr Boyle said police were also waiting on computer and phone examinations, as well as post mortem results.

“The post mortem tests are outstanding … the forensics pathologist was away last week and this week until Wednesday,” he said.

A recent court hearing heard police still do not have a cause of death.

Police have so far taken statements from 330 people and still have another 50 to 100 to go.

“The investigative accountant is still to come,” Mr Boyle said.

“The accountant has indicated that it will be mid November.”

Magistrate Callaghan said he was shocked it could take so long.

“You’re joking, aren’t you,” he said.

“I can’t believe for a minute that it’s going to take five months for an accountant to look into the finances of one person.”

Mr Boyle said the records were “voluminous”.

Magistrate Callaghan ordered that the brief of evidence be handed to the defence by no later than August 20, except for the accountant’s statement.

The matter will return to court on September 3 for a committal mention.

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New technology, the media and criminal trials – Let’s talk about it


Here is an interesting article folks that I found that comes at a time when the media and the internet are colliding with the long-held protocols of the old school legal system of the last century, who needs to catch up with who I wonder?

Where are we headed with blogs like this? the instant twitter commentary from courtrooms, the insatiable thirst for the information, good bad or ugly. You all know I am a believer of  Major Trials being telecast to those who want to and indeed need to watch them. Just like some have an interest in Question Time in Parliament and some do not. make it available, what is there to hide?

By Peter Gregory

July 06 2012

Are we now behind the times?

On an overseas crime website was the personal and criminal history of a man known to the Victorian public.

At the time, he was before the courts on a serious charge. The trial judge had warned jurors not to look up the internet, because they were to return a verdict only on the evidence they saw or heard in the courtroom.

Put simply, the judge’s warning was part of delivering a fair trial. If accused of crime, you are judged by a jury of your peers.

They base their decision on the material presented to them in the courtroom. Almost always, that means no reference to the previous convictions of the person on trial, or neighbourhood gossip about a case, or the wise pronouncements of media commentators.

The legal system’s assumption is that jurors, not being trained as lawyers, will find it harder to put aside prejudicial information. If you were a juror on a rape trial, and learned that the accused person had been convicted (separately) of rape six months earlier, what would you think about this case?

“Guilty,” said one student when this question was posed during a seminar some years ago. That is why jury members are told not to follow media reports, do their own research, or talk to their families about the case. They are also instructed to be wary of social media, like Twitter or Facebook.

“If your family is like mine, everyone will have an expert opinion,” one judge would say at the start of a Supreme Court trial.

“You can blame me. If they ask about the evidence, you can say the judge told you that you are not allowed to discuss it.”

Journalists would get very nervous about their court stories, fearing they might be fined or worse if they revealed information that the courts believed was likely to be prejudicial.

In one case, five media organisations were fined a collective $670,000 after reporting that a man arrested over three New South Wales murders in 1989 had confessed. The reports were likely to interfere with the administration of justice, it was found.

These were simpler times when a big worry for publishers was the potential to mix up the conservative court story written for local audiences with a more comprehensive account prepared for interstate editions.

If the Victorian jury was protected from prejudice, all was well. If a stuff-up occurred, media lawyers were sent to court to apologise.

More than 20 years later, safety and conservatism sound like foreign concepts.

The crime website which featured the Victorian suspect was not the worst by any means. True, its advertisements for criminal-related merchandise, including DVDs, calendars and magazines, was distracting, but his segment was a fairly sober summary of his court appearances, material from interviews and legal debate about his future.

Numerous other websites talk about criminals and killers. Some are moderate and feature court decisions. Others appear to follow the “hang ‘em high” school, practised with or without a trial.

Still wary of the legal process, mainstream media websites monitor or ban comments being made about court-related stories.

Inflammatory remarks can raise difficulties for many institutions which have embraced social media and the internet to engage with the public.

Bond University professor Mark Pearson recently analysed problems with the Queensland Police Facebook site, which was flooded with hard-nosed commentary following a high-profile arrest.
“I fear it will not be long before a savvy defence lawyer seizes the opportunity to use such prejudicial commentary as grounds for appeal, perhaps resulting in a trial being aborted at great public expense or even a verdict quashed,” he told The Australian newspaper.

So, what can the courts do?

Last month, the New South Wales Criminal Court of Appeal allowed a media challenge to court orders that would have forced news websites to remove thousands of archived stories about a conspiracy to murder trial. The Sydney Morning Herald said the court upheld the argument that the orders were futile because “vast swathes of information on the internet are essentially beyond the court’s control”.

“It is something of an irony that the (media organisations)…are, on one view, the only people against whom an order could properly have been made,” the court said in its published judgment.

While NSW law might let prosecuting authorities seek suppression orders over prejudicial material published online by local media, that permission could not validly apply to the world at large.

Suppression orders might cover material on internet sites beyond the control or awareness of local publishers.

Imagine the SMH finding all the international crime websites, and persuading them to take down some of their murder summaries because an Australian prosecutor was worried about them.

A Law Council of Australia committee, of which this writer is a member, outlined some other problems in a submission made to the Federal Government.

The media and communications committee said information could not be effectively censored or removed once it was available online. Material was often republished or cached on other sites. Monitoring archives for past publications would be costly and a significant exercise, and in many cases would have little practical effect, the committee argued.

Removing mainstream material might also bump the relevant information contained on less reputable websites up the search engine list for determined researchers.

“Suppression and non-publication orders that that operate to censor or remove historical reports by mainstream media organisations can lead to (the other) websites being elevated in lists of search results carried out, for instance, on the names of accused persons, and thus perversely increase the risk of prejudice to forthcoming trials,” the committee said.

If censoring the media does not work, the focus returns to juries. Jurors can be fined for looking up the internet during trials, if they decide to ignore judges’ warnings.

On its website, the Judicial College of Victoria has quoted court decisions describing jury members as “robust and responsible”, not “fragile and prone to prejudice”. But it warns that the availability of internet databases posed new problems for protecting jurors from prejudicial information.

Could that mean sequestering the jury – staying at hotels, not at home – for the whole trial, to keep it away from outside influences? Would that happen at all trials, or just the ones that attracted massive media attention?

One of the court decisions suggested keeping juries together during the proceedings would protect the open court principle and avoid prejudice. The accommodation costs in a long hearing, and the associated pressure to avoid mistrials, would be very likely to create their own problems.

What are your thoughts readers?

New technology, the media and criminal trials – Let's talk about it


Here is an interesting article folks that I found that comes at a time when the media and the internet are colliding with the long-held protocols of the old school legal system of the last century, who needs to catch up with who I wonder?

Where are we headed with blogs like this? the instant twitter commentary from courtrooms, the insatiable thirst for the information, good bad or ugly. You all know I am a believer of  Major Trials being telecast to those who want to and indeed need to watch them. Just like some have an interest in Question Time in Parliament and some do not. make it available, what is there to hide?

By Peter Gregory

July 06 2012

Are we now behind the times?

On an overseas crime website was the personal and criminal history of a man known to the Victorian public.

At the time, he was before the courts on a serious charge. The trial judge had warned jurors not to look up the internet, because they were to return a verdict only on the evidence they saw or heard in the courtroom.

Put simply, the judge’s warning was part of delivering a fair trial. If accused of crime, you are judged by a jury of your peers.

They base their decision on the material presented to them in the courtroom. Almost always, that means no reference to the previous convictions of the person on trial, or neighbourhood gossip about a case, or the wise pronouncements of media commentators.

The legal system’s assumption is that jurors, not being trained as lawyers, will find it harder to put aside prejudicial information. If you were a juror on a rape trial, and learned that the accused person had been convicted (separately) of rape six months earlier, what would you think about this case?

“Guilty,” said one student when this question was posed during a seminar some years ago. That is why jury members are told not to follow media reports, do their own research, or talk to their families about the case. They are also instructed to be wary of social media, like Twitter or Facebook.

“If your family is like mine, everyone will have an expert opinion,” one judge would say at the start of a Supreme Court trial.

“You can blame me. If they ask about the evidence, you can say the judge told you that you are not allowed to discuss it.”

Journalists would get very nervous about their court stories, fearing they might be fined or worse if they revealed information that the courts believed was likely to be prejudicial.

In one case, five media organisations were fined a collective $670,000 after reporting that a man arrested over three New South Wales murders in 1989 had confessed. The reports were likely to interfere with the administration of justice, it was found.

These were simpler times when a big worry for publishers was the potential to mix up the conservative court story written for local audiences with a more comprehensive account prepared for interstate editions.

If the Victorian jury was protected from prejudice, all was well. If a stuff-up occurred, media lawyers were sent to court to apologise.

More than 20 years later, safety and conservatism sound like foreign concepts.

The crime website which featured the Victorian suspect was not the worst by any means. True, its advertisements for criminal-related merchandise, including DVDs, calendars and magazines, was distracting, but his segment was a fairly sober summary of his court appearances, material from interviews and legal debate about his future.

Numerous other websites talk about criminals and killers. Some are moderate and feature court decisions. Others appear to follow the “hang ‘em high” school, practised with or without a trial.

Still wary of the legal process, mainstream media websites monitor or ban comments being made about court-related stories.

Inflammatory remarks can raise difficulties for many institutions which have embraced social media and the internet to engage with the public.

Bond University professor Mark Pearson recently analysed problems with the Queensland Police Facebook site, which was flooded with hard-nosed commentary following a high-profile arrest.
“I fear it will not be long before a savvy defence lawyer seizes the opportunity to use such prejudicial commentary as grounds for appeal, perhaps resulting in a trial being aborted at great public expense or even a verdict quashed,” he told The Australian newspaper.

So, what can the courts do?

Last month, the New South Wales Criminal Court of Appeal allowed a media challenge to court orders that would have forced news websites to remove thousands of archived stories about a conspiracy to murder trial. The Sydney Morning Herald said the court upheld the argument that the orders were futile because “vast swathes of information on the internet are essentially beyond the court’s control”.

“It is something of an irony that the (media organisations)…are, on one view, the only people against whom an order could properly have been made,” the court said in its published judgment.

While NSW law might let prosecuting authorities seek suppression orders over prejudicial material published online by local media, that permission could not validly apply to the world at large.

Suppression orders might cover material on internet sites beyond the control or awareness of local publishers.

Imagine the SMH finding all the international crime websites, and persuading them to take down some of their murder summaries because an Australian prosecutor was worried about them.

A Law Council of Australia committee, of which this writer is a member, outlined some other problems in a submission made to the Federal Government.

The media and communications committee said information could not be effectively censored or removed once it was available online. Material was often republished or cached on other sites. Monitoring archives for past publications would be costly and a significant exercise, and in many cases would have little practical effect, the committee argued.

Removing mainstream material might also bump the relevant information contained on less reputable websites up the search engine list for determined researchers.

“Suppression and non-publication orders that that operate to censor or remove historical reports by mainstream media organisations can lead to (the other) websites being elevated in lists of search results carried out, for instance, on the names of accused persons, and thus perversely increase the risk of prejudice to forthcoming trials,” the committee said.

If censoring the media does not work, the focus returns to juries. Jurors can be fined for looking up the internet during trials, if they decide to ignore judges’ warnings.

On its website, the Judicial College of Victoria has quoted court decisions describing jury members as “robust and responsible”, not “fragile and prone to prejudice”. But it warns that the availability of internet databases posed new problems for protecting jurors from prejudicial information.

Could that mean sequestering the jury – staying at hotels, not at home – for the whole trial, to keep it away from outside influences? Would that happen at all trials, or just the ones that attracted massive media attention?

One of the court decisions suggested keeping juries together during the proceedings would protect the open court principle and avoid prejudice. The accommodation costs in a long hearing, and the associated pressure to avoid mistrials, would be very likely to create their own problems.

What are your thoughts readers?

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