It’s a grim day for the judges of the ACT Court of Appeal.
The High Court has pushed out a media release slamming the decision to set aside Steven Hillier’s conviction for the murder of Ana Louise Hardwick.
By a 4-1 majority, the Court remitted the matter to the Court of Appeal for rehearing. One member of the High Court would have ordered a retrial. The Court held that the majority in the Court of Appeal had identified facts which, examined in isolation from other evidence, were treated as requiring the conclusion that it was not open to the jury to be satisfied of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The High Court held that the Court of Appeal failed to consider whether, on the whole of the evidence, all of it circumstantial, it was open to the jury to be persuaded beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Hillier was guilty. Neither at trial, nor on appeal, was a circumstantial case to be considered in piecemeal fashion. The conclusion that a guilty verdict was not open to the jury could only be reached if some aspects of the evidence were assessed separately from the rest. The Court held that the reasoning of the Court of Appeal majority was erroneous.
It will be interesting to see what the Appeals Court does when they take a second swing at the matter.