The father of murdered Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe says the law must change so juries can be told about defendants’ past crimes.
Queensland’s attorney-general says he’s willing to consider a proposal by Daniel Morcombe’s father to let jurors know about a defendant’s criminal past when they stand trial.
Bruce Morcombe has made a public plea for the change after a jury found pedophile Brett Peter Cowan guilty, earlier this year, of murdering his 13-year-old son.
The jury convicted Cowan despite not knowing about his earlier child sex convictions.
Mr Morcombe said it was not fair the jury was able to hear about the criminal past of another pedophile, Douglas Jackway, during the trial, but not Cowan’s.
“An injustice was that the accused in the dock was in a privileged position where nobody in the courtroom was allowed to divulge that he too had a very similar record,” he told News Corp Australia.
Mr Morcombe said jurors were later relieved to know they’d made the right decision after hearing details of Cowan’s past.
The call from the Morcombes, who are now child protection advocates, follows similar comments by Chief Justice Paul de Jersey last year.
He has argued that members of the public are smart enough to hear the truth in court about past relevant offences.
Any such change would overturn the justice system’s long-standing position that knowledge of past convictions could taint juries’ verdicts in subsequent trials.
Civil libertarians are against the move, given the potential for prejudice.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said he’s open to the idea, but how it could affect defendants’ right to a fair trial needed to be considered.
“This government’s priority has always been about preventing monsters from re-offending in the first place by keeping them behind bars, to ensure other families don’t have to go through what the Morcombes have had to endure,” he said in a statement.
“We have brought in some of the toughest sex offender laws in the country and are continually looking at ways to ensure appropriate deterrents and adequate punishments for serious criminal offences are set.”
Cowan was sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period of 20 years.
After a verdict was delivered, the media could finally report on what many involved in the Morcombe case had known for years – that Cowan was a serial sexual predator who had twice been to jail for horrific attacks on two other boys, aged six and seven.
Premier Campbell Newman said community debate was needed.
“It is a contentious issue,” he said.
“It’s not something we would be rushing into, I’m pondering that one at the moment.
“We won’t be leaping to any change at this moment.”