Herald Sun: (VIC) Jason Roberts’ conviction over Silk-Miller murders quashed – retrial ordered

The families of slain policeman Gary Silk and Rodney Miller say they are “absolutely devastated” after Jason Roberts’ murder conviction was sensationally overturned, with a retrial ordered.

The conviction of Jason Roberts over the Silk-Miller police murders has been sensationally quashed and a retrial ordered.

In a landmark ruling on Tuesday morning, Roberts will be given a shot at freedom after it emerged his original trial was corrupted by police misconduct involving the doctoring of a statement, failing to disclose evidence and perjury.

Police misconduct in the Silk-Miller homicide investigation saw “impropriety and unfairness permeate” and lead to an unfair murder trial, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Roberts has been serving a life sentence for the murders of Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller, who were killed in the line of duty in an ambush shooting on August 16, 1998.

The court found Senior Constable Glen Pullin’s “undisclosed dishonest conduct” in fabricating his witness statement influenced Roberts’ murder trial in the prosecution’s favour.

In their written reasons. Justices Forrest, Osborn and Taylor said their conclusion was “fortified” by aspects of further police misconduct evident during the process of preparing the case for trial.

“The Court was satisfied that there had been a serious departure from the prescribed processes for trial and that there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice,” the judgment said.

The court rejected the push by Roberts’ legal team for him to be acquitted, saying there was significant public interest in the serious nature of the case which required a retrial.

Justices Osborn, Forrest and Taylor, have considered the “extraordinary’’ Roberts appeal for four months.

Roberts’ lawyer Peter Matthews told the court his client will now apply for bail in the coming days.

The now 40-year-old, who pleaded not guilty at his 2002 trial, was convicted by jury decision alongside serial killer Bandali Debs.

Although there is no doubt over Debs’s conviction, Roberts has maintained his innocence, stating he was not at the crime scene in Moorabbin.

He has since admitted to police to being involved in armed robberies with Debs and to being an accessory to the murders after the fact.

Meanwhile, the families of slain policeman Gary Silk and Rodney Miller said they were “absolutely devastated” by Tuesday’s ruling, saying the jury “got it right the first time”.

“It is not the decision we were hoping to hear, 22 long years after Gary and Rod were murdered,” the families said in a statement.

“We are deeply saddened for the members of Task Force Lorimer, who have dedicated so much of their lives to ensuring that Rod and Gary received justice.

The families said they could only hope the new jury would also find Roberts guilty.

“We have no doubt that the original convictions of Jason Roberts and Bandali Debs were correct”.

Police Association boss Wayne Gatt said today was one of “too many” difficult days over the past 22 years and has vowed to stand with the Silk-Miller families.

“The commitment to justice that Gary and Rod sacrificed their lives for, has been carried by their families, who have endured countless challenges, appeals and decisions with characteristic grit and dignity for which Rod and Gary would be proud,” Mr Gatt said.

“In 22 years, they’ve not been afforded the clear air and certainty to look forward without having to look back.

“Today, they learned that for some time yet that will continue,” he said.

“Again, they will be there for Rod and Gary to see this through.”

Misconduct by police during the Silk-Miller probe, uncovered by a Herald Sun investigation, has become central to Roberts’s appeal.

The fabrication of a police statement made by officer Glenn Pullin — who was among a group of first responders to find the dying Senior Constable Miller — has been key.

Mr Pullin’s original statement, buried for 19 years until uncovered by the newspaper, was replaced by a new statement and backdated to the morning of the murders to appear as the original.

Critically, it contained parts of a conversation with the wounded Senior Constable Miller — known as his “dying declaration” — indicating multiple offenders.

But Mr Pullin’s original statement, made 10 months earlier, never mentioned any gunmen. It was also never disclosed at the trial of Roberts and Debs. Other police statements were also shredded.

In June, Court of Appeal Justice Robert Osborn said the nondisclosure was “systemic”.

Roberts’s barrister, Peter Matthews, said the misconduct threatened the integrity of the entire criminal justice system.

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