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

 

 

THE STRUGGLES OF KILLER JAMES RAMAGE

On Thursday 28 October a jury of seven men and five women found 45-year-old James Ramage guilty of the manslaughter of his estranged forty-two year-old wife, Julie. The judge allowed a defence of provocation and so the jury was asked to to decide whether they were certain beyond reasonable doubt that the woman's actions were not of the kind that might have caused an ordinary man with the characteristics of the accused to lose control and do what he did. Ramage did not dispute that his actions - he strangled her and buried her in a shallow grave outside Melbourne - caused the death of his wife.

What his defence counsel, Phil Dunn QC, argued was that he was suffering depression and in particular, adjustment disorder, when he confronted his wife at their home in July 2003. Ramage told police he attacked his wife after she said sex with him would be 'repulsive.'

On the first day of examination of witnesses Dunn questioned Julie Ramage's sister, Jane Ashton, about Julie's sexual relationships after the marriage. Later in the trial he did the same to Laurence Webb, the man who'd become Julie's boyfriend. The defence obviously believed the jury needed to know this to better understand the feelings and state of mind of James Ramage before he killed his estranged wife..

I've never said I was opposed to the defence of provocation. To that extent Phil Dunn should be able to seek the concurrence of the prosecutor and or the the judge for its allowance. The question is, should the judge have allowed it, and should a jury have accepted it.

Judges tell barristers - as Judge Osborn did with Phil Dunn - they must be careful not to unnecessarily attack the character of the person who has been killed. After all, it's the accused not the dead woman who is on trial. At present there's no law against a man and a woman separating, and although some people think 'adulterers' should be burned at the stake, the Coalition government hasn't proposed it as policy.

Whatever I think about the law of provocation, this has been a gruelling case. Even the children of the accused men have taken the stand. I was in the court when Ramage's 17-year-old daughter, Samantha told how her mother feared that her husband might 'act violently to her.. (and)..kill her horse,' and went on to admit that she'd asked her mother not to go too fast in a relationship with another man. It's all very sad.

I've written extensively about the law of provocation. References to my book Just another little Murder and articles I've written can be found in the politics section.

The following is a variation on that article:


'Only doing my job,' Defence Counsel Phil Dunn had muttered in the Supreme Court foyer when I suggested his approach to the rights of the 'murdered' Julie Ramage was like something out of Afghanistan. For the previous hour, on Tuesday 12 October 2004, I'd watched him grill a nervous, but determined Jane Ashton. Her blond hair resting neatly in symmetry on her shoulders, and, despite the tired eyes, looking fit and healthy in black trousers and a white blouse, Ashton had tried to tell the real story of the killing of her twin sister, Julie, at the hands of her estranged husband James Ramage in July 2003.

Justice should have demanded that Jane document the bullying her sister experienced at the hands of Ramage. Instead, with the defence of provocation in the air, character assassination and the patriarchal rights of an estranged man usurped the court's interest in truth and one woman's right to leave a failed marriage. Derisively portrayed by Dunn as having 'fallen in love with a new beau', the dead woman was transformed into a femme fatale whose abandonment of a besotted man had caused him to kill her. The same puerile arguments were used in 1989 when the man who killed my sister was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation. Fifteen years on, the defence of provocation continues to run amok with the rights of women.

Jane Ashton is a year older than the 25-year-old girl my family lost to 'provocation' in 1987. Jane's twin sister was 42-years-of-age when James Ramage strangled her to death. On the second day of the trial, beginning with a flurry of interruptions, Dunn sought to cast Jane as a hostile witness and a duplicitous match maker who offered the fragile James Ramage hope while secretly facilitating Julie's abandonment of him for another man. Without caution from Justice Osborn the defence was allowed to ask the jury to conclude that a good mother who fled a bullying man and found the company of someone more understanding had contributed to her own 'murder'. The irony that Julie Ramage lost her life doing what the defence narrative demanded - telling her estranged husband she wasn't ever coming back - was lost in this censorious soap opera.

This was a killing in Melbourne not Afghanistan. So why was Phil Dunn allowed to implore the women of the jury to consider whether the presence of tampons in the dead woman's handbag meant pre-menstrual tension might have played a role in the killing? This barbarity, along with the endless questions about Julie Ramage's sexual relationship with her new 'beau' landed like rocks at the public stoning of a female adulterer in some primitive village. And if knowing that Julie had sex with another man served justice, why wasn't the jury asked to consider the sexual habits of the killer?

No one knows exactly what happened before James Ramage grabbed his wife by the throat in their Balwyn home. She probably did say 'you just don't get, do you? I am not coming back.' The killer told police she also said 'sex with you would repulse me.' But would she have said that to a man who frightened her? And so what if she did? We've all said worse. At Police Headquarters on 26 August 1987 Peter Keogh said it was words, 'fuck off' or 'piss off'', that caused him to lose control and stab my sister to death in her car outside the kindergarten where she worked. Justice Hampel said it was enough, in the context of the separation, to compel him to put provocation to the jury.

Where the law of provocation believes men kill the women they love, loved ones see power and 'honour' - for these are really ''honour killings'' - as the reason for the gun, the knife and the fists. They also know that if Julie Ramage's behaviour was of the kind that might have caused an ordinary man to lose control and strangle her, then no woman is safe.

How could a jury find that Julie Ramage had somehow provoked her estranged husband to kill her? Some of the blame must be laid at the feet of the DPP. By allowing James Ramage a provocation defence the court effectively extinguished the human rights of his wife and fortified the barbaric precedents that now riddle criminal justice history. Julie Ramage has lost her life, whereas we men who succour this lie have only 'lost our balls.' For every time we transform an act of violence based on patriarchy and ownership into a crime of passion, wherein an allegedly depressed and abandoned man, to quote Oscar Wilde 'kills that which he loves' we diminish our humanity and independence. It's time to we stopped being a willing ally to this lie.

If you wish to write to me about the case or the defence of provoctaion, please email to

phil@etu.asn.au

 

 

 

 

 

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