AN Australian pilot, who spent almost 1,000 days in jail for a crime he did not commit, is planning to sue the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth director of public prosecutions for compensation, the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday.
Frederick Martens, 60, was sentenced to five years’ jail after being accused of a 2001 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Papua New Guinea. But last week in Queensland’s court of appeal, Justice Richard Chesterman quashed the conviction on federal child sex tourism charges in 2006 and set aside the jail sentence, finding there was insufficient evidence to support the charge.
And now Mr Martens is demanding a change in the law that left him unable to defend himself against the false accusations.
“Because of the nature of the accusations, nobody wanted to know me or have anything to do with me,” Mr Martens said. “This has totally ruined my life.
“It has cost my businesses in Papua New Guinea millions in lost earnings.
“But more importantly it has cost me the life of my daughter Stephanie, who died at six months old from malaria because I was unable to travel and secure her paperwork to bring her back to Australia for treatment.”
The case against Mr Martens, who ran PNG’s equivalent of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, hinged on the timing of the assault allegation and the claim he was flying at the time.
He requested the official flight records but was told they did not exist.
Justice Chesterman said: “After his arrest, the petitioner was released on bail, a condition of which was that he not leave Australia.
It was therefore impossible for him to travel to PNG to conduct his own inquiries … It was, in any event, eminently reasonable for him to rely upon the resources of the director of public prosecutions and the AFP to obtain the records.
“They undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist.
“The records have always existed and have now been produced.
Mr Martens said it was only when his wife, Rose, went to PNG and made a request over the counter at a government agency that the flight records were discovered. – www.smh.com.au