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Downer murder produces first murder conviction in Canberra since 1998

By 25 March 2011 46

downer murder site

No case has created as much heated discussion on this site as the Downer murders of 2008 where Struan Bolas and Julie Franco were killed and their house set on fire in Downer.

In fact the families of the victims are largely responsible for this site bringing in pre-emptive comment moderation.

The Canberra Times reports that Scott Alexander McDougall has this morning been found guilty of both the murders by Justice Malcolm Gray, the first murder conviction in the ACT since 1998.

So if you kill two people, set fire to the house, sit in your car covered in blood until the police find you, and admit the killings, you can, in fact, be found guilty of murder in Canberra.

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46 Responses to Downer murder produces first murder conviction in Canberra since 1998
#1
dundle10:12 am, 25 Mar 11

I think this shows that when it’s murder they will call it such…though admittedly some of the manslaughter convictions have surprised me. However, I think the anger held by some members of the public (largely uninformed about the facts of the case and the law) over recent self-defence acquittals becomes even more unjustified in light of this decision.

#2
dundle10:14 am, 25 Mar 11

Wait, you said plead guilty? This article and others say not guilty.

#3
johnboy10:18 am, 25 Mar 11

Sorry, admitted the killing, but didn’t plead guilty to murder, fixed now.

#4
Mysteryman10:42 am, 25 Mar 11

About damn time. I notice that old mate Higgins wasn’t presiding over the first murder conviction since ’98…

#5
johnboy11:00 am, 25 Mar 11

And headline of the day goes to the ABC.

#6
TVStar11:19 am, 25 Mar 11

I calculate that as an infinite increase in the murder rate.

Better get him acquitted on appeal, or this will look bad!

#7
Ian11:20 am, 25 Mar 11

Ian said :

So if you kill two people, set fire to the house, sit in your car covered in blood until the police find you, and admit the killings, you can, in fact, be found guilty of murder in Canberra.

But, but, but ….he had a bad childhood, he was affected by drugs, he was bullied at school, the people he killed said mean things about him …. How can he be guilty of murder if all these were properly taken into account?

Oh hang on, sentencing is still to come.

#8
Not12:09 pm, 25 Mar 11

Stop with this whole murder conviction consistency nonsense. The Australian legal system works on a pluralist ideal that means from time to time, someone somewhere will get the wrong outcome. But this system is the only one we have and it is working fine. Is it unsafe in the ACT? I would be chanting at the cops for the unsolved ones instead of a spinning a conspiracy theory claiming a bench of lenient judges. Move on already.

#9
limitless12:21 pm, 25 Mar 11

About time. I hope they put him away for the remainder of his life. Struan was a really good bloke and didn’t deserve this.

#10
troll-sniffer1:05 pm, 25 Mar 11

limitless said :

About time. I hope they put him away for the remainder of his life. Struan was a really good bloke and didn’t deserve this.

There are many northsiders who grew up in ythe 70s and 80s who would, if approached, classify old Struan as a likeable lad but somewhat the Mully of his time.

#11
shadow boxer1:17 pm, 25 Mar 11

Last I heard of him he was bolting for Sydney with the police hot on his tail.

Like most of those bikies of the time he was a likeable lad if you weren’t the one getting the kicking.

#12
shadow boxer1:19 pm, 25 Mar 11

Last I heard of him he was bolting for Sydney with the police hot on his tail.

Like most of those bikies of the time he was a likeable lad as long as you weren’t the one getting the kicking. Lovely family though, nothing wrong with his upbringing.

We probably know each other troll sniffer

#13
colourful sydney rac2:14 pm, 25 Mar 11

Not said :

Stop with this whole murder conviction consistency nonsense. The Australian legal system works on a pluralist ideal that means from time to time, someone somewhere will get the wrong outcome. But this system is the only one we have and it is working fine. Is it unsafe in the ACT? I would be chanting at the cops for the unsolved ones instead of a spinning a conspiracy theory claiming a bench of lenient judges. Move on already.

Thank you for injecting some common sense amongst the ‘hang them high’ rabble.

#14
Mysteryman3:13 pm, 25 Mar 11

Not said :

Stop with this whole murder conviction consistency nonsense. The Australian legal system works on a pluralist ideal that means from time to time, someone somewhere will get the wrong outcome. But this system is the only one we have and it is working fine. Is it unsafe in the ACT? I would be chanting at the cops for the unsolved ones instead of a spinning a conspiracy theory claiming a bench of lenient judges. Move on already.

Evidently, there are a LOT of people who disagree with your assertion that “this system is…working fine”. By “working fine”, do you mean allowing murderers to be convicted of less serious charges and subsequently facing less serious sentences? Because that’s what’s happening.

It’s no coincidence that murder convictions stopped in the ACT in 1998. Legislation made it almost impossible to get a murder conviction in the territory, and so prosecutors opted to go for less serious charges (such as manslaughter). Add to this the fact that people like Chief Justice Higgins are well known in legal profession to be “soft” on crime and you end up with not a conspiracy, but a sad reality that the system in the ACT isn’t working as well as it should.

#15
Not4:40 pm, 25 Mar 11

Mysteryman said :

Not said :

Stop with this whole murder conviction consistency nonsense. The Australian legal system works on a pluralist ideal that means from time to time, someone somewhere will get the wrong outcome. But this system is the only one we have and it is working fine. Is it unsafe in the ACT? I would be chanting at the cops for the unsolved ones instead of a spinning a conspiracy theory claiming a bench of lenient judges. Move on already.

Evidently, there are a LOT of people who disagree with your assertion that “this system is…working fine”. By “working fine”, do you mean allowing murderers to be convicted of less serious charges and subsequently facing less serious sentences? Because that’s what’s happening.

It’s no coincidence that murder convictions stopped in the ACT in 1998. Legislation made it almost impossible to get a murder conviction in the territory, and so prosecutors opted to go for less serious charges (such as manslaughter). Add to this the fact that people like Chief Justice Higgins are well known in legal profession to be “soft” on crime and you end up with not a conspiracy, but a sad reality that the system in the ACT isn’t working as well as it should.

What a load of unsupported speculation. I am sure that the DPP would love to hear about your excuse for their alleged inability to secure murder convictions. Justice Higgins is the Chief Justice because he knows his profession better than most. To infer that any justice would be, and I quote, “Soft” on crime, ( assuming you meant on sentencing criminal matters) is as bout as cynical and unaware as I have heard. But if you are generally so convinced, then I guess just stay indoors until its safe to come out.

#16
cleo5:30 pm, 25 Mar 11

So happy the monster got double murder, the evidence was over whelming for a double murder conviction.
I heard he cried like a baby for himself, threw his hands up in the air, and said I might as well give up now! That’s right, double murder is back to back with no parole, and judge alone trial, it won’t be as easy for him to get an appeal.
So now John, there is no more alleged murder Yay!
This has gone Nation Wide, and so it should, he murdered two completely innocent people, he murdered Struan, then murdered Julie as she was a witness.

#17
johnboy5:50 pm, 25 Mar 11

Ahh Not, what did the High Court have to say about the ACT Supreme Court?

johnboy said :

The presentation and adjudication of the case in the courts below do cause it to merit a place in the precedent books. The reasons for placing it there turn on the numerous examples it affords of how litigation should not be conducted or dealt with. The proceedings reveal a strange alliance. A party which has a duty to assist the court in achieving certain objectives fails to do so. A court which has a duty to achieve those objectives does not achieve them. The torpid languor of one hand washes the drowsy procrastination of the other. Are these phenomena indications of something chronic in the modern state of litigation? Or are they merely acute and atypical breakdowns in an otherwise functional system? Are they signs of a trend, or do they reveal only an anomaly? One hopes for one set of answers. One fears that, in reality, there must be another.

#18
Mysteryman5:52 pm, 25 Mar 11

Not said :

Mysteryman said :

Not said :

Stop with this whole murder conviction consistency nonsense. The Australian legal system works on a pluralist ideal that means from time to time, someone somewhere will get the wrong outcome. But this system is the only one we have and it is working fine. Is it unsafe in the ACT? I would be chanting at the cops for the unsolved ones instead of a spinning a conspiracy theory claiming a bench of lenient judges. Move on already.

Evidently, there are a LOT of people who disagree with your assertion that “this system is…working fine”. By “working fine”, do you mean allowing murderers to be convicted of less serious charges and subsequently facing less serious sentences? Because that’s what’s happening.

It’s no coincidence that murder convictions stopped in the ACT in 1998. Legislation made it almost impossible to get a murder conviction in the territory, and so prosecutors opted to go for less serious charges (such as manslaughter). Add to this the fact that people like Chief Justice Higgins are well known in legal profession to be “soft” on crime and you end up with not a conspiracy, but a sad reality that the system in the ACT isn’t working as well as it should.

What a load of unsupported speculation. I am sure that the DPP would love to hear about your excuse for their alleged inability to secure murder convictions. Justice Higgins is the Chief Justice because he knows his profession better than most. To infer that any justice would be, and I quote, “Soft” on crime, ( assuming you meant on sentencing criminal matters) is as bout as cynical and unaware as I have heard. But if you are generally so convinced, then I guess just stay indoors until its safe to come out.

Of course. The fact that this is the first murder convinction in 13 years must be put down to coincidence, surely. It can’t possibly have anything to do with the problems in our legal system, right? Perhaps you should talk to members of the AFP. The majority of officers/forensics personnel I’ve spoken seem to agree with me.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/police-argue-act-murder-law-too-lenient/1575730.aspx

So did the ACT Labor government:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/labor-promises-murder-law-change-if-reelected/1239779.aspx

Reading between the lines, you can see that the current government doesn’t seem to have as much faith in the Justices as you do.

http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.php?v=10450

You don’t seem to understand much about the situation so it’s probably better you keep your head buried in the sand and pretend like the AFP, the government, and many of the informed voters are making “unsupported” claims.

#19
vg6:01 pm, 25 Mar 11

I assume the Not is fully expressed as Not From Around Here, as your judicial analogies are appallingly inaccurate.

“Struan was a really good bloke”

-1

#20
Deckard7:21 pm, 25 Mar 11

johnboy said :

And headline of the day goes to the ABC.

Sounds like the pizza I just ordered.

#21
dundle7:52 pm, 25 Mar 11

johnboy said :

Ahh Not, what did the High Court have to say about the ACT Supreme Court?

I’m not an expert on this but is it really that relevant? It’s from Aon v ANU which was a case about case management – poor case management. It was poor because the parties didn’t act in time, which you can’t really blame on the Court. The HC did find the SC made the wrong decision but considering they do that sort of thing all the time, sometimes with criticism, I don’t think that’s particularly significant. They’re also talking about litigation there, not criminal law. There are examples of poor case management in other jurisdictions like Queensland v JL Holdings which was relied upon until Aon v ANU – notice that was the HC saying one of their own past decisions is no longer to be followed! Honestly, I find it hard to see how you extract a criticism of the ACT Supreme Court’s handling of criminal cases from that quote relating to poorly-conducted litigation.

#22
Not8:12 pm, 25 Mar 11

Mysteryman said :

Not said :

Mysteryman said :

Not said :

Stop with this whole murder conviction consistency nonsense. The Australian legal system works on a pluralist ideal that means from time to time, someone somewhere will get the wrong outcome. But this system is the only one we have and it is working fine. Is it unsafe in the ACT? I would be chanting at the cops for the unsolved ones instead of a spinning a conspiracy theory claiming a bench of lenient judges. Move on already.

No article from the Canberra Times can ever be considered a reliable and credible source. And it only serves to confirm suspicions that it is your main supply of facts relating to criminal cases and that is of real concern. I just still can’t see how conclusions are drawn by the lack of murder convictions relative to charges laid that has many forming the assumption of a corrupted or lenient court operating in Canberra. Of course it is! What other explanation could there be? It assumes that some how a murder was committed when the judiciary has not found that? A tad on the presumptuous side. Where is the evidence to support it? Rumors and innuendo don’t count, and niether does intuition or use of a clarevoyant, crystals with special powers or channel nine. What I think it comes down to a lack of access to accurate information and also what is reported versus what is unreported, as I am sure not everyone is sitting in the court house all day hearing case after case (not a bad way to get the whole story with free bonus context thrown in if you must know the facts) Rarely do you read about lengthy sentences, they just don’t seem that interesting I guess. All that aside, how much difference to your life would it make to see the roughly one or two murders that take place in the ACT each year, result in convictions for murder?And I would love to know what is motivating the need to see it as such? Historically the murder rate for Canberra hasn’t moved up or down significantly ever (Wouldn’t one be grateful murders are not as frequent as one might be convinced?) I have said it before I am sure, but when people start complaining about sentences handed down by the courts, for all other citizens who have had someone they loved murdered and whose day in Court has never come at all, it is just demeaning and insulting. Spare a thought for them please. Be thankful for the system you have and for charges to be heard at all. If there is injustice taking place as speculated, it will be no doubt investigated and resolved in its own time. Remembering the many wrongly jailed victims around the country, we have seen that eventually justice can be done in time. The law and the appeals avenues have allowed for it and it is still justice at the end albeit a hard version to stomach. I don;t know of a case where that has happened in a Canberra court, though I am open to the possibility it has? Recent times? I am happy to write to your local newspaper on your behalf and demand they stop telling stories that give you nightmares. It is the least I can do.

JB, is there a link you can provide with that extract so I can read the whole finding? As much as I love reading lawyer language terms. Interested to read over it.

Evidently, there are a LOT of people who disagree with your assertion that “this system is…working fine”. By “working fine”, do you mean allowing murderers to be convicted of less serious charges and subsequently facing less serious sentences? Because that’s what’s happening.

It’s no coincidence that murder convictions stopped in the ACT in 1998. Legislation made it almost impossible to get a murder conviction in the territory, and so prosecutors opted to go for less serious charges (such as manslaughter). Add to this the fact that people like Chief Justice Higgins are well known in legal profession to be “soft” on crime and you end up with not a conspiracy, but a sad reality that the system in the ACT isn’t working as well as it should.

What a load of unsupported speculation. I am sure that the DPP would love to hear about your excuse for their alleged inability to secure murder convictions. Justice Higgins is the Chief Justice because he knows his profession better than most. To infer that any justice would be, and I quote, “Soft” on crime, ( assuming you meant on sentencing criminal matters) is as bout as cynical and unaware as I have heard. But if you are generally so convinced, then I guess just stay indoors until its safe to come out.

Of course. The fact that this is the first murder convinction in 13 years must be put down to coincidence, surely. It can’t possibly have anything to do with the problems in our legal system, right? Perhaps you should talk to members of the AFP. The majority of officers/forensics personnel I’ve spoken seem to agree with me.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/police-argue-act-murder-law-too-lenient/1575730.aspx

So did the ACT Labor government:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/labor-promises-murder-law-change-if-reelected/1239779.aspx

Reading between the lines, you can see that the current government doesn’t seem to have as much faith in the Justices as you do.

http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.php?v=10450

You don’t seem to understand much about the situation so it’s probably better you keep your head buried in the sand and pretend like the AFP, the government, and many of the informed voters are making “unsupported” claims.

#23
Not8:19 pm, 25 Mar 11

vg said :

I assume the Not is fully expressed as Not From Around Here, as your judicial analogies are appallingly inaccurate.

“Struan was a really good bloke”

-1

I know Canberra very well though I do not live there. In any case it doesn’t mean that I am not aware of what court proceedings information is on record and accessible. I happen to be a keen Canberra admirer and regularly observe the goings on there. I have family there also. I am more from Canberra than I am anywhere else.

#24
vg10:37 pm, 25 Mar 11

Not said :

vg said :

I assume the Not is fully expressed as Not From Around Here, as your judicial analogies are appallingly inaccurate.

“Struan was a really good bloke”

-1

I know Canberra very well though I do not live there. In any case it doesn’t mean that I am not aware of what court proceedings information is on record and accessible. I happen to be a keen Canberra admirer and regularly observe the goings on there. I have family there also. I am more from Canberra than I am anywhere else.

I bet I know the Canberra judicial system, and its considerable inconsistencies (curiously many caused by a drinking buddy of the local Labor executive) much better than you. You’re out of your depth discussing it

#25
Not11:46 pm, 25 Mar 11

vg said :

Not said :

vg said :

I assume the Not is fully expressed as Not From Around Here, as your judicial analogies are appallingly inaccurate.

“Struan was a really good bloke”

-1

I know Canberra very well though I do not live there. In any case it doesn’t mean that I am not aware of what court proceedings information is on record and accessible. I happen to be a keen Canberra admirer and regularly observe the goings on there. I have family there also. I am more from Canberra than I am anywhere else.

I bet I know the Canberra judicial system, and its considerable inconsistencies (curiously many caused by a drinking buddy of the local Labor executive) much better than you. You’re out of your depth discussing it

Well that is foolish grandstand statement that says more about you than it does me. But I have very good insight into the judicial system there, without having the badge to get a hold of the briefs. Who wins? It is not about having the best “leaks”, but being reasonable in thought. Inconsistencies are the price paid for a system as good as we ll have. It is just the deal, greatest good for the greatest number. Just like we accept we will always have a small percentage of bent cops in an overall good force.

#26
vg9:05 am, 26 Mar 11

Yes, it says that I have a better understanding of it than you….so I guess that is about me.

When was the last time you were IN an ACT Courtroom?

#27
Not9:11 pm, 26 Mar 11

vg said :

Yes, it says that I have a better understanding of it than you….so I guess that is about me.

When was the last time you were IN an ACT Courtroom?

Actually I think it just says you have a drinking partner from the labor executive. I try and avoid court rooms as I find them defiling. Plus I hate legal terminology.

#28
Mysteryman4:51 pm, 27 Mar 11

vg said :

Not said :

vg said :

I assume the Not is fully expressed as Not From Around Here, as your judicial analogies are appallingly inaccurate.

“Struan was a really good bloke”

-1

I know Canberra very well though I do not live there. In any case it doesn’t mean that I am not aware of what court proceedings information is on record and accessible. I happen to be a keen Canberra admirer and regularly observe the goings on there. I have family there also. I am more from Canberra than I am anywhere else.

I bet I know the Canberra judicial system, and its considerable inconsistencies (curiously many caused by a drinking buddy of the local Labor executive) much better than you. You’re out of your depth discussing it

+1

It’s evident from Not’s posts that he/she has no idea what’s going on here. Either that, or he/she does know what’s going on but chooses to ignore it. I hope it’s the first one.

#29
Not6:36 pm, 27 Mar 11

Mysteryman said :

vg said :

Not said :

vg said :

I assume the Not is fully expressed as Not From Around Here, as your judicial analogies are appallingly inaccurate.

“Struan was a really good bloke”

-1

I know Canberra very well though I do not live there. In any case it doesn’t mean that I am not aware of what court proceedings information is on record and accessible. I happen to be a keen Canberra admirer and regularly observe the goings on there. I have family there also. I am more from Canberra than I am anywhere else.

I bet I know the Canberra judicial system, and its considerable inconsistencies (curiously many caused by a drinking buddy of the local Labor executive) much better than you. You’re out of your depth discussing it

+1

It’s evident from Not’s posts that he/she has no idea what’s going on here. Either that, or he/she does know what’s going on but chooses to ignore it. I hope it’s the first one.

I know what exactly what it going on. Too many sheltered years of living in an safe, clean and wealthy city has you wrapped up bubble wrap. Aside from the whole opinion of the courts and the way they operate, the number of murders in Canberra wont change. They haven’t in the last 50 years. There would still be rumors and judgments flying around even if it appeared all was well in the courts. Most of us tend to forget that there is nothing you are able to control in the world but for how much you appreciate your own life. Everything else is beyond us. So while it might seem like it serves as deterrent for other would be killers, convicting murders and jailing them for eternity does nothing to make for a safer world. History clearly shows us this. What is the real issue here for you paranoid people? Vengeance is not logical explainable here as I am sure you would not let anyone else do your bidding for you? Soft or not soft on crime would be irrelevant because we would all be vigilantes and making our own minds up. But since we have all chosen to have a representative do that we will stay indoors for now.

And it would be He, standing over there in distance waiving a copy of the Canberra Times at you and not caring.

#30
Special G8:30 pm, 27 Mar 11

The ACT Supreme Court, specifically inJustice Higgins has been critisised in its handling of cases and evidence, sleeping on the bench, throwing out evidence because he doesn’t understand it ro found it too predjudicial to the defence case (mainly because it said they did it). Discounting witness testimonies etc.

Critisism has not only come from the public but visisting interstate judges on appeals as well.

All alleged murders in recent times:

Girl rufies her boyfriend and gives him a hotshot of heroin whilst hosting a dinner party – manslaughter – obviously didn’t mean to kill him.
Supreme Court even had a person convicted for aid and abet murder when no one was convicted of the murder.
Mum stabbed 38 times – manslaughter – just had a bad day cutting up some carrots.
Mum stabbed 57 times – manslaughter (57 times does not indicate intent to kill apparently)
Guy brings a knife – picks a fight then stabs the guy in the head with no prior warning claiming self defence to a fight he escalated. makes sense to anybody
Bloke with a shot gun chased down the street by an unarmed man until he had to shoot him in self defence – sure why not.
Bloke stabbed 8 times by crazy chick with a knife who then doesn’t tell anyone until later. sure – note to self don’t pick up in bars.
Guy chased out of a caravan and choked to death – self defence (because staying in the caravan wouldn’t constitute defence because the other guy was running away,)
Bloke strangles his x-wife and leaves DNA on her neck – could have got there by some other means – sure why not.

Why would anyone think that nothing is wrong with the system?

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