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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2698

Senator KANE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct my question to the Attorney-General and I refer to the case of Mr Leith Ratten who was convicted in August 1970 of the murder of his wife and sentenced to death. I might add that the sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment. Is the AttorneyGeneral aware of the circumstantial nature of the evidence which convicted Mr Ratten? Is he aware that 3 appeals were subsequently dismissed, one to the Victorian Full Court, one to the Privy Council, and one to a special sitting of the Victorian Full Court? Is he aware that there is still a widespread belief among some people in the innocence of Mr Ratten? Could the AttorneyGeneral have his Department look at Mr Ratten 's case and, if there seems to be any reasonable doubt existing after an extensive examination, is there any way in which the AttorneyGeneral could facilitate an appeal to the High Court? The Attorney will appreciate that I am not familiar with all the legal problems involved and I would appreciate his guidance on such a non-party-political matter.

Senator MURPHY -Certainly I will have the matter looked into. The honourable senator indicated that there had been a number of appeals. If there are some questions to be examined in relation to this case and if there may have been some miscarriage of justice-

Senator Wright - It is not within the federal sphere.

Senator MURPHY - If there may have been some miscarriage of justice with which my portfolio is concerned, I certainly will do what I can to assist. I am not sure of the circumstances as to whether there is any federal element involved in the case- I say that in answer to the interjection by Senator Wright- but Senator Kane having raised the matter I will look at it. I should say to the honourable senator that I had personal experience of a very famous case heard in our courts some time ago. Appeals in regard to it had been dismissed yet on a thorough investigation afterwards it was quite clear that the person should not have been convicted. It is extraordinary how circumstances sometimes are overlooked, even in the appeals which are held.

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