A lawyer by occupation, I have spent 28 years in the Australian Navy specialising in criminal law with extensive experience as an advocate before Military courts martial and in civil courts as a Police and Crown prosecutor. I have a reputation for addressing injustices.
I became involved in this case 12 months ago after watching the ‘Breaker’ Morant movie (not for the first time!!). I became concerned by the disregard for the rights of the accused to a fair trial, in particular a reasonable opportunity for their Australian defending officer, Major James Thomas, to prepare a defence case for Lieutenants Morant, Handcock and Witton who had been charged with killing Boer prisoners during the Boer War.
I have studied the research of professional historians and frankly I am concerned that they have not studied the evidence and the law of 1902. Instead, they have made assumptions and self serving statements to suppport their own bias against Morant. Their declarations, including that Morant murderd large numbers of Boer civilians is simply not supported by any evidence. Historians have also failed to study the evidence from a legal perspective. The time has arrived for an inquiry into the legal process, the arrest, trial and sentencing of Morant, Handcock and Witton.
I believe that Morant, Handcock and Witton were not tried in accordance with the law of 1902 and had suffered injustice as a result. In short, the convictions for murder were unsafe and a review process has to be done. Despite extensive literature on the Boer war and the life of Morant, no one had ever examined the details of the trials, questioned neither the legitimacy of the evidence nor the conduct of the trials. As a senior lawyer, I have used my extensive legal and military experience to study the case and have produced significant evidence that asserts Morant, Handcock and Witton did not receive fair trials.
In October 2009, I forwarded two petitions for pardons for these men, one to the Australian House of Representatives Petitions Committee and the other to Her Majesty, the Queen. In May 2010, I also sent a petition to the Senate. I lobbied Australian politicians and written letters to the British government. I succeeded in having the matter heard before the House of Representatives Petitions Committee on the 15th of March 2010. A member of the Committee described the grounds of appeal as strong and compelling.
I believe unsafe convictions were the result of flaws in the arrest, investigation, trial and sentencing of the accused. The historic process of petitioning the Crown for the exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy has been used to argue for an inquiry into the execution of Morant and Handcock and the imprisonment of Witton.
I am committed to having this matter examined and justice delivered posthumously so that Major Thomas’ work can be completed, and the descendants of these men can rest knowing that Morant, Handcock and Witton served the Crown in a manner that deserves honourable recognition. Ultimately, I want justice on behalf of these men and their descendants.