Roseanne Beckett … ''The truth will come out one day.'' Photo: Jacky Ghossein
This story was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The state government is demanding Roseanne Catt pay an $89,000 victim's compensation award to her former husband, Barry Catt, even though she has been found to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice in the same case.
The latest twist in a 20-year case, which began when Roseanne Catt, now known as Roseanne Beckett, was charged and convicted of assaulting and attempting to poison Mr Catt, a motor mechanic in Taree.
In 2005 the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal quashed six of eight convictions for which Ms Beckett had served 10 years in jail, sending five of those back for a retrial. The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently elected not to proceed with a retrial. She is now suing the NSW government for malicious prosecution and appealing to the Supreme Court for a further inquiry into two remaining convictions.
Ms Beckett says she was stunned to receive a letter from the NSW Victims Compensation Tribunal last week: "Do they think this will be the weight that breaks me? The claim is based on false information. They have opened a Pandora's box," she said.
She first received the demand for the $89,000 in 1998 after she had been in jail for seven years. She responded with a sworn statement asserting her innocence. "The truth will come out one day and you will see the wrong person has been put in jail … I ask you to please look at this very grave situation and override this man's claim for compensation," she wrote.
She heard nothing more from the tribunal and was released from jail in 2001 after an inquiry was ordered into fresh evidence suggesting NSW Police might have planted a gun on her.
Mr Catt did not apply for compensation until three years after Ms Beckett had gone to jail.
Initially Mr Catt was granted only $9300 with the tribunal's assessor noting there was no evidence of serious injury or financial loss and that some of the material was "naive in the extreme".
Mr Catt appealed with the help of his friend and key prosecution witness Adrian Newell whose 21-page statement Mr Catt's solicitor said was "extremely relevant" to the claim.
Ms Beckett wanted to use Mr Catt and Mr Newell's victims' compensation statements to demonstrate contradictions between them and their evidence in her trial and the 2004 inquiry into her case conducted by Judge Thomas Davidson. But the DPP resisted her lawyer's attempt to subpoena the file. Although the file was later partly admitted, the defence was prevented from exploiting contradictions in prosecution accounts of injuries and events.
Judge Davidson found the prosecution's key witnesses were unreliable, describing Mr Catt as "at times irrelevant to the point of incomprehensibility, and that he could not accept his evidence unless supported by other independent and credible witnesses".
He found Mr Newell was so opposed to Ms Beckett that he might have fabricated evidence that she spiked her husband's drinks with lithium.
Ms Beckett says she will oppose the restitution claim and push for an investigation into the claim which she says can be proved to be fraudulent.
"Why won't they ever do anything about the false evidence that has been used against me?" she says.
The head of Victims Services, Mandy Young, was not able to comment yesterday.