CANBERRA, Australia — A woman from the Australian state of Victoria was jailed for murdering her ex-partner by stealing his ute and running him down did not get a fair trial, the Court of Appeal has heard.
In 2017, Janice Bufton was furious after her lover of fewer than two years, Colin Snooks, said he was leaving her and “heading north,” and she jumped into his Holden Rodeo and drove down the driveway of her Grampians property.
The ute’s bonnet hit Snooks, and he was crushed under its wheels, dying of his injuries a short time later.
Bufton was jailed for 24 years but is appealing against her conviction and sentence.
Her lawyer said that the verdict in her trial was unsafe and that Snooks may have caused his death by jumping from the driveway onto the grass verge and into the path of the ute.
“Although she intended to drive around him, he came across her path,” said Richard Edney, the lawyer to the court.
He argued that Bufton had “steered gradually” and had not swerved into Snooks, as shown by the tire prints the ute left on the grass.
Edney said the close examination of the evidence of critical witnesses “open up the possibility that this was an accident, a tragic accident. The murder verdict is unsafe for that reason.”
The jury should have been unable to exclude the possibility of an accident, he said, and the trial judge had not adequately instructed it on issues of causation.
But a friend of Snooks, Benjamin Weston, saw the whole incident and yelled “watch out!” as the ute approached.
Weston said the trial jury that Bufton was “incandescent with rage” when she violently gunned the ute and took off 40 to 50 kilometers per hour (24 to 31 miles per hour).
His evidence made an otherwise strong case for murder “overwhelming,” the Crown argued.
“This is a very deliberate running down and not an accident,” crown lawyers said.
Bufton’s lawyer also argued that her sentence was too harsh because she was 70 years old and has had cancer.
“Her crime was not premeditated, and she had led an otherwise blameless and productive life,” Edney said.
Bufton listened to proceedings via video link from custody. Her appeal has been adjourned to a later date.
From 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020, Australian prisoners decreased by 5 percent (1,968) to 41,060, as per reports by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“This was the first national decrease since 2011,” states the report.
“The imprisonment rate also decreased by 7 percent, from 219 to 202 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.”
From March 2020, Australia’s federal, state and territory governments introduced various measures to slow the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19). These measures subsequently impacted the level of crime recorded by state and territory police during the 2020 reference period.
Property crime decreased across all states and territories during 2020, with the most significant falls observed nationally between the March and June quarters, when Covid-19 measures first came into effect.
Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra
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