Two Mums with babes: (L) Carleen Bryant, (R) Princess Mary of Denmark, both from Hobart
by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
Let’s say the desired thing is to get Martin Bryant out of prison. I realize that’s not the top priority; the top priority is for us to stop tolerating the complete breakdown of law, but just attend to this goal of prison-release for a moment. Which actions could result in his release?
Folks could demand either an Inquest or a Royal Commission, which would have the power of subpoena.
Note: 2335 souls have already signed a petition to that effect. Ms Bonney personally delivered the signatures to Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman and Tasmanian Governor Professor Kate Warner on March 16, 2016. To no availaroonie, needless to say.
…and there are other ways, too. But let’s consider a pardon. Sure, it’s not ideal as it implies “mercy” rather than “justice.” But at the moment mercy may be better than nothing.
Recall Pontius Pilate (Monty Python’s) saying “I shall welease Bwyant.” That is basically a pardon. You let the prisoner go free without resolving who committed the massacre, much less who covered it up for 20 years.
A pardon would have the value of shocking the public. At first they would think it wrong to let a mass murderer go loose, but conversation would be stirred up. Before you know it, peeps would realize that the official Port Arthur story isn’t worth a cracker.
How Does a Pardon Happen?
In the United States, convicted persons in prison can apply for parole to a parole board. They can also apply for pardons, or for clemency – a reduction in sentence as from death sentence to life in jail. The decision, in a federal case, is made by the president, usually for some political reason. In a state case it’s usually the governor that has the power to pardon.
In Canada you don’t have to show that you are innocent to get a pardon. The goal is rehabilitation and being restored to the community.
In Australia, the standard method is for advocates of the hopeful pardonee to get a message to the queen. By tradition the monarch can use the RPM, the royal prerogative of mercy. In her long reign of 61 years, Queen Elizabeth must have pardoned many convicts.
You may have heard of the recent attempt by descendants of Breaker Morant, and two other Diggers, to get the Queen to pardon those three, posthumously. During the Boer War they had killed some POWs and civilians and were executed for so doing.
Commonwealth Attorney-General Nicole Roxon said Morant and the other men didn’t meet the criterion of being innocent both technically and morally. She said in 2012 that the Australian government would not pursue the matter further with the Queen. However, The Telegraph reported on July 25, 2013:
“Jim Unkles, a military lawyer said: ‘I am applying to the High Court for a review of the British government decision not to help an independent inquiry. The appeal will be on the basis that there were major errors at the court martial, and that these men were denied their rights. Lord Kitchener conspired to get them executed.’ Mr Unkles argues the men received inadequate legal representation and were denied access to certain evidence.”
Ah, inadequate legal representation! Please see the interview of Martin Bryant by his lawyer John Avery (or the other way around) dated October 3, 1996. “Inadequate” does not cover the situation. On the very face of the transcript we see that Avery tried to prevent Bryant from knowing his right to plead innocent.
Find Anyone Who Can Pardon
To me it’s confusing that the governor of each of Australia’s six states is a representative of the queen just as is the G-G in Canberra. The sovereignty of the states suggests that one could apply to Tasmania’s vice-regal, Governor Professor Kate Warner, for a pardon for Bryant.
Before becoming governor she was on the Law Faculty of University of Tasmania. So she must be quite aware of the Port Arthur case and may feel that unloading it would be good for her state.
And a pardon is way better for the top officials, as opposed to the incriminating potential of an inquest.
In my opinion the premier Will Hodgman, too, could whip out a paper and pen and write a pardon. My theory is that there ain’t nuthin’ to stop him. The warden running the prison answers to the Tasmanian Prison Service who answers to the Minister, namely Dr Vanessa Goodwin, who answers to the Premier.
That prison warden is going to say No to the premier?
Is the Privy Council Operative?
New Zealand’s longest-serving prisoner, Alfred Vincent. At age 12.
New Zealand stopped referring cases to the Privy Council in London in 2004. However a person whose case was decided before that date could still approach the PC. Recently Alfred Vincent, age 74, was denied his appeal. As Diedre Mussen writes, at stuff.co.nz:
Vincent, who grew up in Canterbury, became eligible for parole 41 years ago and had appeared in front of the Parole Board almost every year since. Last October, the board issued a three-year postponement order, meaning he must wait until 2018 for his next chance for release from Rolleston Prison in Canterbury, where he had spent most of his incarceration. Vincent had become increasingly frail in recent years.
(He is to be kept locked up on the fear that he will re-offend; his sin being that of indecent assault on underage boys.)
In Australia, appeals to the Privy Council have not been possible since the Australia Acts 1986. I quote former Chief Justice of the High Court Murray Gleeson:
“For Australian lawyers of my age, the Privy Council was a real and powerful presence. During most of my time at the New South Wales Bar, from 1963 until 1988, appeals could be taken to the Privy Council from the High Court, from State Supreme Courts, and even from single judges of State Supreme Courts. Until the 1986 legislation took effect, litigants, by appealing from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council, could by-pass the High Court in many cases, and it was not uncommon for appellants to do so where an existing decision of the High Court appeared to be adverse precedent.”
In sum, we cannot ask the House of Lords to help Australians.
Something Nice in Denmark
Looking around, whom else do we see that could urge Bwyant to be weleased. How about a nice Aussie mother who lives overseas? How about a nice Aussie mother of four overseas who will one day be Queen (Consort) of Denmark, and whose son Christian will one day be king?
You’ve got it: the Crown Princess who started life as Mary Donaldson.
She had the most terrific wedding ceremony I have ever seen. The best wedding reception, too, where Prince Frederick said “I will love you and protect you.” Wow. Protecting the Missus — in this day and age!
Good, then she has a protector if she thinks of helping a fellow Tasmanian. She can make little noises in royal circles (they’re all cousins aren’t they?). Anyone could understand that she hails from the Apple Isle, and still cares about her people. It’s only natural.
Her sister is a nurse in the Royal Hobart Hospital. Princess Mary herself has a Bachelor of Law degree. Her first career was in Sydney. The story is that Mary met Frederick in a bar at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. And now they have umpteen offspring. Well, four actually.
Walter Mikac’s Children
I see that the Danish Crown Princess is the patron of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. That is a charity for helping children that is named after two child victims of the (real) gunman of Port Arthur. They were the daughters of Nanette Mikac who also died and Walter who survived.
The Foundation has several missions; one is called the Best Buddies program. It helps any child to find a buddy at school and to be safe from bullying. Per its website:
“The Framework builds strong relationships which research shows children benefit from immensely – with younger students feeling safe and cared for, and older students feeling valued and respected.”
To me that sounds Confucian and I am entirely in favor of it. Interestingly, Princess Mary is not only involved in the Australian arrangement for Best Buddies, she has made a similar set-up in hundreds of schools in Denmark!
Now here is a video for anyone who thought the coronation anthem Zadoc the Priest was only for Brits:
And here we see Their Royal Highnesses visiting Tasmania in 2008. At 1.30 minutes she visits the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
Photo credit: http://www.stuff.co.nz/