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Baden-Clay decision 'affirms jury role'

1 Sep 2016

From AAP Newswire, Australia

The High Court's ruling to reinstate Gerard Baden-Clay's murder conviction affirms the role of the jury in determining the fate of accused criminals, a legal expert says.

The five-judge bench of the High Court on Wednesday morning unanimously ruled in favour of an appeal by Queensland prosecutors to overturn a decision to downgrade Baden-Clay's conviction to manslaughter.

The ruling marks the end of a four-and-a-half year saga for the high-profile criminal case, which has captured the public's attention since the mother-of-three went missing in April 2012.

"I think what the judgement does is it makes it very clear that in a case of circumstantial evidence where the only options put to the jury are that he murdered her or that he had nothing to do with it, it's up to the jury to decide," University of Queensland law professor Heather Douglas told AAP.

She said the High Court's concern seemed to be that "a third alternative" put forward at the Court of Appeal hearing wasn't made available at the 2014 trial.

Then, the defence ran their case in a particular way and in doing so "locked out" that alternative explanation for Allison's death, Prof Douglas said.

"It's a really strong judgement on the role of the jury in circumstantial cases," she said.

"They get all of this evidence before them ... and they make a call."

It comes after Baden-Clay's lawyer Peter Shields said the High Court's decision would have "massive implications" for future cases.

"Smarter people than I will write very interesting articles about this decision because it really does fundamentally alter the position of the criminal law throughout the Commonwealth," he said in Brisbane.

"The consequences are massive."

Mr Shields said the High Court's decision would have been different if his client had not given evidence at his own trial.

He said the implications of the decision would affect the way trials are run across the country, specifically whether defendants themselves chose to give evidence.

"We have a court system, so the High Court decision that was handed down today is now in place and will affect trials that commence tomorrow."

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