Zak reprieve would be a Territory first
If Zak Grieve gets his 20-year jail term commuted through a mercy plea, it will be a first for the Northern Territory.
Figures obtained by The Australian show that no one has been granted mercy for a serious crime at least since the beginning of selfgovernment in 1978. There have been only 11 mercy applications since the Territory became a stand-alone jurisdiction, and just one was granted — in 2002.
Then, a prisoner was released to seek treatment for a severe, chronic illness before serving the full 13 months of his sentence for two counts of stealing. It is a far cry from the 20 years Grieve got for a murder the judge found he did not physically commit.
Grieve’s mother, Glenice Grieve, visited her son on Friday. She said he was coming to terms with the outpouring of interest in his case that followed publication of The Australian’s six-part multimedia investigation The Queen & Zak Grieve.
“He’s getting that reflected in there (in jail) now, that he’s not a killer,” Ms Grieve said. “The story has shown the truth behind this ordeal, that he’s not what he was portrayed to be.”
Grieve’s brother and sister said they were anxiously waiting the next steps in the legal process. Glenice Grieve is understood to have triggered a mercy plea application by accident when she wrote an anguished letter to the NT Administrator.
Grieve’s lawyers, who were expected to apply for a mercy plea sooner or later, are believed now to be seeking an extension of time to prepare his application properly.
Grieve was sentenced under the Territory’s mandatory sentencing regime, which the Labor administration is reviewing. Chief Minister Michael Gunner recently described Grieve’s case as an “anomaly”.
Opposition Leader Gary Higgins has given in-principle support for reforms that would give judges more discretion when sentencing for murder.
Grieve was one of three men convicted of the 2011 murder of Katherine man Ray Niceforo. Although the judge accepted Grieve’s claim that he pulled out of the murder at the last minute, Territory legislation meant he could be convicted of murder for failing to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent the killing.
In sentencing Grieve, judge Dean Mildren said he took no pleasure in the outcome, adding that the Territory’s mandatory sentencing laws “inevitably bring about injustice”.
The 11 mercy-plea applications lodged since the beginning of selfgovernment have involved prisoners serving time for offences ranging from murder, manslaughter, rape and sexual assault of children to property crimes and crimes involving drugs and guns.
An Attorney-General’s Department spokeswoman said the circumstances of mercy pleas were not usually made public, citing cabinet confidentiality.