Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : Literature : Just another little murder Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

Just another little murder

Reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald

In 1963, Peter Keogh was 15 when he was shot in both knees during a crazed knife attack on a Melbourne policeman. His defence of not knowing what he was doing because of drunkenness was accepted in the Victorian Supreme Court and he beat an attempted murder charge. Justice Monahan exhorted Keogh to "go around with a song in your heart rather than a dagger in your belt".

In this passionate book, Phil Cleary, former independent federal MP and Victorian football star player, details how completely Keogh failed to heed that advice. The bloody song of Keogh's life included assault, child rape, arson and the stabbing killing of Cleary's younger sister, Vicki, in 1987. It ceased when Keogh committed suicide in 2001. Apart from Keogh, the source of the anger so evident in Cleary's take-no-prisoners narrative is those involved in the criminal justice system whom Cleary believes are too ready to excuse male violence and unwilling to call a spade a spade and a murderer a murderer. Cleary's belief that Keogh was unjustly acquitted of the murder of his sister is profound.

Readers may find the first half of this often angry and abrasive narrative a little confusing as Cleary jumps back and forth over events in Keogh's life. But the more measured second half rewards persistence and some stark facts emerge. During his 1989 trial Keogh claimed he merely intended to damage Vicki Cleary's car on the morning he waited for her arrival outside the suburban Melbourne kindergarten where she worked. This, he said, was why he was carrying a roll of masking tape, a Stanley knife and a 30-centimetre kitchen knife in a cardboard sheath under his yellow overalls.

Justice George Hampel allowed the defence of provocation to go to the jury on the basis of Keogh's evidence that Vicki told him to "fuck off" and that she did not want to speak to him. From that moment, Keogh claimed, his mind went blank. Psychiatric evidence was led to support the loss of self-control necessary for the defence.

Cleary's moving book raises serious questions about the defence of provocation and whether it should have been left to the jury in Keogh's trial, given his violent past. The defence of provocation can have a brutal effect on the friends and family of the victims of violent crime. It is supposed to be a limited concession to a certain type of human frailty, but was never designed to give the unusually pugnacious a licence to kill.

Christopher O'Donnell is a Sydney barrister.

 

 

 

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