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The case of the missing staple

staples.jpgNo, this isn’t a new Encyclopedia Brown adventure. Rather, it’s the story of a massive blunder Down Under. Back in the late 80s or early 90s, two men were convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a Sydney woman. In 1992, they lost their final appeal, which should’ve been the end of their legal story. However, “an astonishing blunder” of “sloppy record keeping” has brought the story back to life.

Seems that, at some point in the Austrailian judicial process, you get a Crown Indictment (I’m too lazy to look all this up, but I’m guessing it’s something like a final verdict). Australian laws and the rules of the New South Wales Supreme Court require this Indictment to be fixed to the court file in order for the Crown Indictment to be “finalised.” And while there are staple holes in the top of the indictment, there is no actual staple, so the killers’ lawyers are arguing that the Indictment was never properly finalized.

And last year, the Court of Criminal Appeal agreed that the staple holes alone weren’t enough to establish that the Indictment had been attached to the court file. Nevertheless, the court tossed the killers’ appeal as to their sentence anyway. But now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear their appeal this September, which has led to an outcry of outrage from the community, since it means these men could arguably have their sentence overturned due to a missing staple.

As a result of this outrage, there’s now a massive review being done of every criminal file in the New South Wales Supreme Court’s records, to make sure no other staples are missing. And the Supreme Court is also going to look into closing that little loophole in its rules, which sounds like a good idea.