SA-BEST demands Attorney General releases “secret” Manock report as matter of urgency

12 April 2019

SA-BEST MLC Frank Pangallo today demanded the Attorney General, Vickie Chapman, stick to her promise when in Opposition and immediately release the Crown advice on an independent report into the forensic evidence produced by discredited pathologist, Colin Manock, at the trial of Henry Keogh.

This follows today’s unanimous judgement by the Court of Criminal Appeal by three Victorian judges upholding a decision by State Ombudsman Wayne Lines that the advice prepared by then Solicitor General, Chris Kourakis, should be released to the Seven Network through Freedom of Information.

The report by Professor Barrie Vernon Roberts was sought by Mr Kourakis - now the Chief Justice - in October 2004 after Keogh had lodged a third appeal for mercy the previous year.

This advice - and the Vernon-Roberts report - only came to light in 2014 as Keogh was preparing another appeal.

Keogh subsequently had his conviction quashed and was freed in 2016.

The 16-page Vernon-Roberts report was scathing of Manock’s conduct on the case and was of the view that the death of Keogh’s partner, Anna Jane Cheney, in a bathtub was an accident and not murder.

“However, the previous Labor Government chose to sit for years on both the report and Crown advice which could have freed Keogh much earlier,” said Frank, who worked as a journalist at Channel 7 during the years the Keogh matter was being investigated by colleague Graham Archer.

“Today’s judgement agrees with the Ombudsman’s finding that the Kourakis advice was not privileged because acting Attorney General, Kevin Foley, effectively waived privilege in revealing much of the contents at a press conference in 2006 and in which he said there was no possibility of a miscarriage of justice,” he said.

“Clearly that wasn’t the case as we now know. Releasing the Kourakis advice now will shed new light on the Attorney General’s decision to grant Keogh an ex gratia payment of $2.57 million last year.

“At the time, Mr Foley said South Australians could be comforted in the knowledge that after an exhaustive investigation, Mr Kourakis was in no doubt as to Henry’s guilt.

“Well let’s just see what Mr Kourakis actually said because taxpayers have a right to know.

“Scandalously, the former Labor Government did not act as model litigants in this matter.”

Frank said that before becoming Attorney-General, Ms Chapman raised the issue three times between 2015 and 2016 - making a commitment to support efforts to have the documents released under FOI.

Her own words at the time were: “It’s a lonely and costly battle to get FOI documents. Happy to condemn this continued secrecy at the expense of taxpayers.”

“Well Attorney General, time to action your own words. The advice by Mr Kourakis must be released now and not be delayed yet again by the system that kept an innocent man behind bars for nearly 20 years,” Frank said.

“Ms Chapman cannot justify a change in her original position just because she is now Attorney General - when it is in her power to accept the Ombudsman’s findings and the judgment by the Court of Appeal.

“Had it not been for the efforts of the Seven Network we may have never reached this stage and Henry could still be languishing in prison.

“It shouldn’t take a media outlet, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, to expose the woeful inadequacies of the South Australian justice system.

“All Henry and his legal team have been asking for is the truth – yet some of the most vital information they have been seeking has been withheld.”

Frank again renewed his call for a Royal Commission to be conducted into cases handled by Dr Manock when he was Director of Pathology.

In evidence presented to the Budget and Finance Committee inquiry into Keogh’s payout, two world renown forensic pathologists - Dr Byron Collins and Dr Derek Pounder - dismissed Dr Manock as a charlatan, with one describing his work as “fiction masquerading as fact.”

 “The Attorney General herself stated that Dr Manock handled thousands of cases and had been totally discredited. We need to know how many others out there were not accorded justice because of his conduct,” Frank said.

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