Graham Stuart Stafford and friend, Deborah, outside court after
his murder conviction was quashed on appeal.
Revelations that one of Queensland's most senior crown prosecutors declined to prosecute Graham Stafford could assist his compensation claim against his jail sentence, a legal expert said last night.
Mr Stafford served nearly 15 years for the September 1991 rape and murder of 12-year-old Goodna schoolgirl Leanne Holland, but his conviction was quashed on Christmas Eve last year.
Yesterday, The Australian newspaper reported that crown prosecutor Vishal Lakshman declined to prosecute the trial in 1992 because he was unconvinced of Mr Stafford's guilt.
brisbanetimes.com.au understands the claim, which would be delivered to Queensland Attorney-General Cameron Dick, is in the process of being formulated by Mr Stafford's legal team.
Bond University professor of law Eric Colvin said the revelation could help in Mr Stafford's compensation claim.
"In a compensation claim, there are no legal criteria, it's an ex gratia payment if it's awarded, and really any relevant information might be taken into account," he said.
"On a compensation claim it might be that they might wish to draw attention to this in the sense of suggesting the original decision to prosecute was ill-advised and, in a compensation claim, there's no reason why that couldn't be taken into account by the government."
Mr Stafford told brisbanetimes.com.au he thought the revelations would strengthen his compensation claim.
But Mr Stafford said he hoped a cold case review into Leanne's death would be launched before any compensation claims were made.
"We had hoped that everything else would be put in order before a compensation claim is placed and I still hope everything else is in order before that happens," he said.
"But if not, someone of [Mr Lakshman's] calibre coming out and saying he had deep reservations about it from the get-go has got to raise a few eyebrows."
Mr Stafford said he wished Mr Lakshman had come out with his concerns about the case earlier.
"Given [Mr Lakshman] had deep reservations about it, it may have given us the impetus to have someone take a much closer look at it," he said.
"That would have been enough for one of the judges to say `gee, we have to look at this one more closely'."
But Professor Colvin said it would have been unlikely to assist Mr Stafford's trial defence, or his appeal.
"The fact that particular prosecutor took that particular view is of no legal significance at all - the considerations that lay behind the view expressed by that prosecutor would be the relevant thing on the appeal," he said.
"I don't think it could have helped if that information was in the public arena - it's interesting and fascinating information, but it's not information that would be of any legal significance."
Bond University criminologist Paul Wilson said compensation should be a given for Mr Stafford.
"It would be appalling if the state government does not compensate him for the nearly 15 years he spent in jail," he said.
"The Queensland Government have been very reluctant to pay compensation in these types of cases in the past and it would be the most mean-spirited move if they did that in this case."
Professor Wilson said a Royal Commission needed to be set up to get to the bottom of the case once and for all.
He said the relationships between investigating officers and a police informant, whose daughter last month suggested may have been Leanne's killer, had to be examined.
"These are Fitzgerald-type questions, they're not minor questions," Professor Wilson said.
"The case has gone well beyond the Stafford case now and well beyond the issue of Stafford himself."
But Professor Wilson said he thought any such inquiry was unlikely to get off the ground.
"I don't think they want it. Governments don't like these investigations and I would have to say I'm appalled that the opposition haven't said anything about this," he said.
"They say they're concerned about justice, but why have they not gotten involved in asking the tough questions of the government in this case?
"The case is not going to go away - that is apparent - it's not going to disappear. It hasn't done for 15 years and it's not going to go away now."