The Department of Public Prosecution has announced it will not pursue a retrial against Graham Stafford after the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction in December last year.
Stafford was convicted in 1992 of the abduction and murder of 12-year-old Brisbane school girl Leanne Holland, for which he served over 14 years in prison.
Maintaining his innocence throughout his incarceration, Stafford launched two failed appeals in the Queensland Court of Appeal and in the High Court before being released from jail in 2007.
Bond University first became aware of the potential miscarriage of justice against Stafford through Professor Paul Wilson, a Criminologist at the University and long-time supporter of Stafford.
Professor Wilson, together with Senior Teaching Fellow (Law) Joseph Crowley and Law and Criminology students, worked pro-bono for two-and-a-half years on a petition for a re-hearing, which was granted by the Governor.
Success came on Christmas Eve last year, when the Queensland Court of Appeal quashed Stafford’s conviction in a 2-1 majority verdict, but could not come to a consensus on whether a retrial was required.
The decision by the Department of Public Prosecution delivers finality to the court proceedings.
“This is a good decision for Graham Stafford in the sense that he will not have to face yet another court action,” said Professor Wilson. “Yet the no-trial decision will mean that it is harder for him to get the compensation he so richly deserves and that the real killer has escaped justice.”
Law’s Joe Crowley, who was junior counsel in Stafford’s successful appeal, said he believed it was the first time an Australian university has achieved success in a miscarriage of justice case.
“It is a great achievement for Graham Stafford and the students who worked on the case should feel very proud of their involvement.
“The work done by Paul Wilson, private investigator Graeme Crowley and our team here at Bond University uncovered some questionable police behaviour. There needs to be an independent inquiry into how Graham Stafford was convicted by evidence which has now been shown to be wrong.
“There are some serious questions over the investigation and prosecution of this matter that will only be answered by a proper commission of inquiry into the case,” said Joe Crowley.
Public interest in the Stafford case has been strong, with Australian Story airing an hour-long documentary of Stafford’s 18-year battle to clear his name, featuring interviews with both Joe Crowley and Professor Wilson.