ACT News

David Eastman pardon unlikely, says Simon Corbell

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell says it is “pretty unlikely” David Eastman will be pardoned for the 1989 murder of Colin Winchester, despite an inquiry into the conviction recommending it be quashed.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The report of the board of inquiry is currently before the ACT Supreme Court, which has four options to consider, one of which is to quash the conviction and recommend to the executive that a pardon be granted.

Mr Corbell said the other three options under the Inquiries Act are to uphold the conviction, to order a retrial or to quash the conviction without a recommendation to pardon.

“Obviously the justice heading up the inquiry, Acting Justice Martin has recommended in his report that the conviction be quashed and it will now be up to the Supreme Court to determine which course of action it takes,” Mr Corbell said.

But he indicated a pardon – which the government as the executive would have ultimate say on – was not likely.

“The inquiry has concluded that the conviction would appear to be unsafe because of failings in the forensic evidence given by [prosecution witness] Mr [Robert] Barnes, but the inquiry chair has also observed that in his view it would appear most likely that Mr Eastman did commit this crime, although he cannot be entirely certain.

“In those circumstances, I think the question of a pardon, should it arise would be pretty unlikely.”

Mr Corbell will not speculate on the issue of potential compensation claims or ex-gratia payments to Eastman should he be released from prison after serving 19 years.

“We don’t know what the outcome of the Supreme Court’s deliberations are yet and until we do, and until we know whether or not a decision is taken for his conviction to be quashed or not, it’s far too early to speculate on that matter,” he said.

The final cost of the five-month inquiry into Eastman’s conviction to ACT taxpayers is still being tallied, but Mr Corbell confirmed it will be more than $3 million.