In 1991, Ms Roseanne Beckett was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for soliciting others to murder her husband, Barry Catt, and for attempting to poison him. Beckett was also falsely charged with assaulting and wounding her husband, perjury and drug possession. She was released from prison in 2001, after serving 10 years of her sentence. Ms Beckett was awarded $2.3 million in compensation for false or wrongful imprisonment. Ms Beckett states that no amount of money will recompense for what she has suffered by this injustice.
Why was Ms Beckett falsely accused?
The injustice Ms Beckett experienced was not because of missing evidence or incompetent lawyers, rather, the Court found that the Detective at the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had a personal vendetta against Ms Beckett. The vendetta arose when Ms Beckett first met the charging officer when a fire engulfed her business premises in Taree in 1983, well before any accusations were made against her.
The Court found that the Detective had made advances towards Ms Beckett at that time, which she had refused. Ms Beckett made an official complaint against the officer in relation to his inappropriate conduct. This sparked the officer’s relentless pursuit of a much bereaved woman, including going to such lengths as planting evidence in her bedroom. It was these revelations that led to six of Ms Beckett’s eight convictions being quashed in 2005. The DPP subsequently elected not to proceed with a criminal retrial.
What did Ms Beckett do when she was falsely accused?
Ms Beckett, in consultation with her lawyers, found that she could not sue for malicious prosecution unless she could establish that the prosecution was malicious, and also that she was completely innocent. Because of the time that had elapsed since her initial conviction, proving her innocence would be difficult. Rather than give up, Ms Beckett argued against that legal requirement, and was successful.
What did the Court say?
The police officer that had initially laid the charges passed away in 2014, however, the Judge didn't hesitate to make comments about his character, like:
"One of the strands running through Ms Beckett’s case had been that Detective Thomas was a corrupt bully who intimidated witnesses with a view to getting them to give evidence or not as the case may be, or to change their story if it did not suit Detective Thomas’ aims or interests...Each of the people [who gave evidence] had a story to tell about Detective Thomas and the often extraordinary and overbearing methods he used when dealing with people.”
Ms Beckett has publicly expressed her relief that justice has prevailed. However, she has made it known that no amount of money can make up for what was done to her, or to give her back those valuable years of her life so unjustly taken away from her.
What can we learn?
Despite the law, if people feel truly wronged by a legal decision, justice can be obtained with persistence and belief. Although there's always a risk that the rule of law will prevail, there are some people that have nothing to lose and everything to gain, which then in turn, obtains justice for others.