Fardon v Australia (HRC, 2010)

Violations: ICCPR art 9(1), ICCPR art 10(3), ICCPR art 14, ICCPR art 15(1)

Remedy's assessment: Remedied

The UN says:

The State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy, including termination of his detention under the DPSOA.

HRC (2010)

Australian citizen Robert Fardon was held in indefinite ‘preventive detention’ for nearly 10 years beyond the completion in 2003 of a 14-year prison term for sexual offences (punctuated by two periods of of conditional release of less than 12 months each). Queensland’s Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 (DPSOA) allows prisoners deemed a threat to the community to be gaoled indefinitely. Their ‘continuing detention’ is reviewed annually by a judge in civil proceedings.

The HRC criticised Australia for failing to adopt 'meaningful measures' for the reformation and rehabilitation of Mr Fardon during the 14 years of his prison sentence, as required by Article 10(3). It found his continued imprisonment without a new conviction to be arbitrary, retroactive and a violation of his fair-trial rights. It constituted a breach of article 15(1), the prohibition on imposing ‘a heavier penalty … than the one that was applicable at the time when the criminal offence was committed’. Further, the civil proceedings by which Fardon’s continuing imprisonment was reviewed did not meet the due process guarantees required by article 14. An appropriate remedy would include ending his ‘preventive detention’.

In March 2013, the HRC deemed Australia’s response unsatisfactory and described follow-up dialogue as ongoing.

In December 2013, by order of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Mr Fardon was released and transferred to ‘supervised accommodation … subject to strict conditions including curfews and electronic monitoring’.

Remedy Australia deems Australia to have failed to respond in good faith to the Committee’s Views in Fardon v Australia. It did not guarantee the termination of his arbitrary detention, nor any other effective remedy. Rather, the State of Queensland continued vigourously to oppose Mr Fardon’s efforts to secure his own release from detention. As a consequence, Mr Fardon suffered an additional 3 years and 9 months in detention beyond receipt of the Committee’s Views.

However, the Queensland Court of Appeal ordered Mr Fardon be released from detention under the terms of the DPSOA, which the HRC had requested. Instead, he became a prisoner under the Corrective Services Act, residing in supervised accommodation on prison property.

Mr Fardon's supervision order lapsed in October 2018. In January 2019, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said Mr Fardon had been living "at large in the community for the past five years [and has] not, to my knowledge, committed any criminal offence, nor breached any requirement that's been placed on [him]." At that time, the state government failed in its attempt to impose a new supervision order when Queensland's Supreme Court accepted evidence Mr Fardon was at "low risk" of re-offending.

The Queensland Attorney-General says police will continue to monitor where Fardon lives and travels, and his phone, internet and social media use for the rest of his life. Failure to comply with those remaining conditions could attract up to 5 years gaol.

Source: ABC News (16 January 2019) https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-16/robert-john-fardon-jail-release-qld/10716960

For source details, see Remedy Australia's 2014 Follow-up Report (PDF 1.3Mb).

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