The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions has begun a Supreme Court action designed to stop the inquiry into the 1995 conviction of David Eastman of murdering Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Colin Winchester in 1989.
Documents filed in the Supreme Court on Friday seek, in effect, to appeal out of time the decision last year of Justice Shayne Marshall to order an inquiry on 19 specified grounds of doubt about the safety of the conviction, and to appeal a decision last week by the inquiry head, acting Justice Brian Martin, about how those terms will be interpreted.
The terms of reference include questions about Eastman's fitness to plead, alleged doubts about scientific evidence, and criticism of both the prosecution and investigating police for an alleged failure to disclose to Eastman some of the evidence that had been gathered.
When Eastman sought the inquiry, counsel for the DPP did not resist, or appeal, the terms of reference for the inquiry ordered. But it later appeared before the original inquiry chief, Justice Kevin Duggan, to argue that the terms of reference should be severely read down, on the basis that they did not disclose ''fresh'' evidence, or material that could not have been used at the trial.
This was rejected by Justice Duggan. More than a year later, counsel for the DPP tried, in effect, to reargue the point, but the argument was rejected summarily by Justice Martin.
Justice Martin began taking evidence this week, including evidence that the judge at Eastman's trial, Justice Ken Carruthers, had been supplied, before or during the trial, with a number of psychiatric reports on Eastman. Neither Eastman nor his team then knew of the existence of the reports, which, it has been suggested, were relevant to whether the judge should have considered whether Eastman was fit to plead.
Justice Carruthers, who earlier appeared by counsel to oppose the raising of his possession of the reports, has now been scheduled to appear as a witness next week, although this is now thrown into doubt by the DPP's application. The new ACT Chief Justice, Helen Murrell, has listed the DPP's application for 9.30am on Tuesday.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.