THE Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth director of public prosecutions face a multi-million dollar lawsuit following the wrongful conviction of a man charged with child sex tourism offences.
Frederic Arthur Martens, 60, of Mareeba, west of Cairns, was sentenced to five years jail by a Queensland court in October 2006 for a 2001 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Papua New Guinea.
However, Queensland’s court of appeal last Friday quashed the conviction and set aside the jail sentence, finding there was insufficient evidence to support the charge.
From his farm in Mareeba, Martens, a pilot who operated businesses out of PNG, said the actions of the AFP and DPP had destroyed his life.
He said he would be seeking a compensation payout that would dwarf the A$2.6 million (K6.75 million) paid to Australian permanent resident Cornelia Rau following her wrongful detention in an immigration facility.
Martens spent almost 1,000 days in Lotus Glen prison, west of Cairns, before being released in May this year after new evidence cast doubt on his conviction.
He also blamed the AFP for the death of his six-month-old daughter Stephanie, who died in PNG because his wife had no money to pay for a doctor after police froze his bank accounts.
In handing down his judgment, justice Richard Chesterman was scathing of the AFP and DPP’s handling of the case.
He was particularly critical of investigators’ claims they could not find flight records which indicated Martens was not with the girl on the date of the alleged offence.
“The records are of critical importance,” he said.
Justice Chesterman said ever since his arrest in 2004, Martens had requested authorities to obtain the records, which he claimed would exonerate him but he was told they did not exist.
Martens’ wife, Rose, later obtained the documents simply by applying for them over the counter at a PNG Government agency.
“(It is) a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other object to their use … on the grounds that the petitioner should have obtained them earlier,” justice Chesterman wrote.
The AFP declined to comment. – AAP