K115 million compo claim

Normal, Weekender

Pilot Frederick Martens has sued the Australian government over his imprisonment on a false rape charge, writes MICHAEL WRAY

A QUEENSLAND pilot wrongfully jailed for nearly 1,000 days on false child-rape claims says the Australian Federal Police made a decision to “get the bastard” before their bungled case was exposed.
Frederick Martens’ A$45 million (K115 million) compensation claim against the Federal Government will be based on the shattering effects the flawed case had on his life and his multi-million-dollar businesses.
Mr Martens, 61, was released from jail in north Queensland late last year on bail before the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and set aside his jail term.
The court slammed the way the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions handled the case.
The investigation into Mr Martens coincided with the Australian government’s attempt to take a more direct role in Papua New Guinean affairs under a A$1 billion “Enhanced Cooperation Programme”.
That push was realised in June 2004 when the PNG Government granted Australia’s wish that its officers receive immunity to work in the northern nation.
Mr Martens was arrested two months later at Cairns airport for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl in September 2001. Three days after the arrest, the AFP’s deployment to PNG began.
“The AFP had to please PNG by showing how superior their performance was, that they could do things the Papua New Guineans couldn’t do themselves,” Mr Martens told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper.
“(The AFP) thought they’d just been given an opportunity on a plate and thought ëwe’ll get the bastard and we’ll use this politically and diplomatically’.”
The Courier-Mail forwarded questions to the AFP last Friday but despite repeated calls to the organisation, it did not respond until Wednesday night.
In 2006, Mr Martens was convicted in the Cairns Supreme Court and sentenced to five and a half years’ jail for raping the PNG girl in Port Moresby.
After Mr Martens lost an appeal, his legal team and his family retraced the original investigation and located documents the AFP had repeatedly denied existed.
The documents, first revealed by the Courier-Mail in 2008, confirmed Mr Martens’ alibi that he was 1000km from Port Moresby on the night of the alleged rape.
Mr Martens was released on bail last May and his conviction was overturned and his jail term set aside by the Court of Appeal six months later.
“The records have always existed and have now been produced,” the Court of Appeal justices wrote in their judgment.
“It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one (AFP) should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other (CDPP) object to their use in the reference on the ground that the petitioner should have obtained them earlier.”
A second case against Mr Martens, also involving an underage PNG girl, imploded before trial in 2008 when the complainant backed out and withdrew her complaint.
The Courier-Mail can reveal that a month after the AFP claimed critical evidence had been stolen from the PNG Immigration Department, an officer in the Pacific Transnational Crime Unit confirmed the document had previously been found in the department and the AFP “retained possession of this form”.
It can also be revealed that a PNG lawyer wrote to the Australian High Commissioner in Port Moresby requesting that the AFP stop “harassing” his client, who had backed out of claims Mr Martens raped her.
Claims the AFP perverted the course of justice centre on their inability to locate PNG Civil Aviation Authority records found by Mr Martens’ family. The documents were central to proving Mr Martens’ alibi.
Last year, the AFP sent a senior investigator to PNG to re-examine the case.
He confirmed in a sworn affidavit lodged in Cairns Magistrates Court that the “database from (which) the charge invoices were obtained has always existed”.
Dr Paul Wilson, a leading criminologist, has studied the Martens case and questioned the pressures that led to Mr Martens’ jailing.
“Where did this extraordinary pressure come from – the DPP, the AFP, from the bureaucracy or the government? I simply have no idea, but it is a real concern,” he said.
Under child sex tourism laws, Australian citizens and residents can be prosecuted in Australia for crimes allegedly committed overseas.
The AFP’s own guidelines on child sex tourism investigations, published each year in its annual report, state the laws are designed to prosecute offenders “who have escaped the jurisdiction of foreign law enforcement investigation, including where local law does not cover these crimes”.
The AFP claimed in its 2004 annual report that it began investigating the claims against Mr Martens after a referral from the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.
As Mr Martens’ legal team, including Cairns lawyer Chris Rose, and his family retraced the AFP investigation, they began to suspect the AFP was being pressured into a high-profile arrest. – www.courier-mail.com.au