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No Body, No Parole Laws in Western Australia

Eery, dark forest

“No body, no parole" laws exist here in WA, in South Australia and the Northern Territory, in Queensland and in New South Wales. 

Under these laws persons convicted of homicide offences who refuse to cooperate with police and law enforcement authorities to disclose the location of their victim's remains will not be eligible for parole.  Parole boards can also refuse parole if an offender convicted of murder or manslaughter has failed to tell investigators the location of their victim’s remains.

Western Australia’s ‘no body no parole’ laws are intended to provide closure to victims, but these laws may, in particular instances, have the potential to compound injustice for persons who are wrongly convicted.

Recently Francis John Wark has been urged to reveal the whereabouts of the body of teenager Hayley Dodd to give her grieving family closure. Last week, at the end of a 6-week re-trial, a jury found Mr Wark not guilty of murder, but found him guilty of manslaughter in the West Australian Supreme Court.

Following Mr Wark’s first trial in 2018 Justice Lindy Jenkins found him guilty of murdering Hayley Dodd, who vanished in July 1999 while walking along a regional road near Badgingarra, northeast of Perth. At that time Mr Wark was sentenced to life with a minimum of 21 years in prison. But last year, the Western Australian Court of Appeal quashed Mr Wark’s conviction.

An ankh shaped earring found in Mr Wark’s car during a cold case review in 2013 was a key piece of evidence in the trial, even though there was no DNA on the jewellery. Another key piece of evidence was a strand of hair that the court was told matched Hayley Dodd’s DNA.

Mr Wark was already serving time in a Queensland prison for the sexual assault of a woman in June 2007 when West Australian police charged him with murdering Hayley Dodd.

The Sentencing and Parole Eligibility

Mr Wark has always maintained his innocence, claiming that he was shopping at the time the teenager disappeared. He is due to be sentenced later this month and because the maximum penalty for manslaughter was 20 years in prison at the time the crime was committed, he will be sentenced under that law later this month.

But other sentencing laws which were passed in Western Australia in 2018, mean that unless Wark divulges where Hayley Dodd’s remains are, he will not be afforded parole.

The Sentence Administration Amendment (No Body No Parole) Bill 2017 states that

“Persons convicted of homicide offences who refuse to cooperate with police and law enforcement authorities to disclose the location of their victim's remains will not be eligible for parole.”

In Australia, people can be charged and convicted of murder and manslaughter even if there is no body, although, for obvious reasons, proving homicide charges can be more difficult if a body is not located. However an accused’s guilt can be determined by circumstantial or forensic evidence.

For example, British tourist Peter Falconio disappeared in 2001 while driving with his girlfriend Joanne Lees in the Northern Territory. Ms Lees said they were flagged down by a man who shot Mr Falconio dead and kidnapped her before she escaped. Bradley John Murdoch was convicted of his murder in 2006. The evidence was largely DNA evidence. Mr Murdoch was jailed for life. Mr Falconio’s body has never been found. 

A law for victim’s families, but with the potential to compound injustice

In more recent years, ‘no body, no parole’ laws have also been passed in numerous jurisdictions around Australia. In most cases where there is no body, families and friends of the victim find it incredibly difficult to move on. Many want the opportunity for a proper burial, or to be able to conduct a memorial. So lawmakers believe that the “no body no parole law” is important legislation for them.

However, ‘no body, no parole’ laws may have the potential to compound the injustice experienced by those who are wrongly accused and imprisoned for murder and other homicide-related offences. A case in point is the conviction of Lindy Chamberlain in 1982 for the murder of her 9-week old daughter Azaria, whose body was never found. Lindy Chamberlain spent more than three years in prison before her conviction was quashed by the High Court after new evidence came to light.

About the Law Offices of Andrew Williams 

Andrew Williams has extensive experience in a wide range criminal law matters. He has acted on a large number of cases offences relating to homicide and is well equipped to represent clients on these criminal matters.

If you find yourself facing a serious criminal charge, contact an experienced criminal lawyer at the Law Office of Andrew Williams on (08) 9278 2575 or enquire online today.

PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.

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