By AMY STOCKWELL
The killing of Jill Meagher last year was a tragedy for her family. Unfortunately for families and friends of victims of crime, the pain doesn’t end when someone is arrested. The court processes associated with our justice system can be extremely harrowing for families.
The Meagher case is no exception.
This week, Adrian Bayley was committed to stand trial for the rape and murder of Jill Meagher. These proceedings were heard in open court and the Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton has allowed the media access to the police brief of evidence against Mr Bayley (a brief of evidence contains all of the evidence put together by the police, including all the statements from witnesses, medical reports and photographs that will be used to build a case against the accused).
This has meant that details of all of the evidence, including surveillance footage and the transcript of the police interview of Bayley, is in papers, news sites and TV newsrooms across the nation.
The transcript of the police interview reveals that Bayley told homicide detectives he had to take “responsibility” and that he had “already done it”. “I strangled her,” he told police, crying. Bayley said he thought the death penalty should be reintroduced “for people like me anyway”.
The brief of evidence reveals that Bayley took police to where Jill Meagher was buried and that the police allegedly found items belonging to Jill Meagher in Bayley’s house. During the proceedings, a pathologist, Dr Matthew Lynch, gave evidence that Jill was strangled with “sustained force”.
A committal hearing is held by a magistrate to determine whether a case should go to trial and be heard before a jury. Criminal trials are lengthy and expensive, so in serious cases (including sexual assault, manslaughter or murder) a committal hearing is held first to test the evidence that is available.
After hearing the evidence, the magistrate will decide whether the evidence is strong enough for a jury to convict the accused. If so, the magistrate will order that the matter proceed to trial in the Supreme Court at some point down the track.
A committal trial is also an opportunity for an accused to enter their plea.
At his committal hearing this week, Bayley pleaded guilty to one count of rape. However, he pleaded not guilty to a second count of rape and not guilty to murder. Media reports indicate that Jill Meagher’s husband stormed out of the court after Bayley entered these not guilty pleas.
In light of the evidence in the police brief, the not guilty plea may seem confusing. How could a person appear to say that they killed someone and then plead not guilty to the murder? The answer lies in the finer points of the criminal law.