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.

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