5 Jun 2023

Kathleen Folbigg pardoned after spending 20 years in jail over deaths of her four children

4:13 pm on 5 June 2023
Kathleen Folbigg was found guilty by a jury in Australia in 2003.

Kathleen Folbigg was found guilty by a jury in Australia in 2003. Photo: Supplied via ABC

Twenty years after she was jailed for killing her four children, Kathleen Folbigg has been pardoned and released from jail in Australia.

New South Wales Attorney-General Michael Daley told a packed media conference that he had received the preliminary findings of a recent inquiry headed by retired chief justice Tom Bathurst.

He said Bathurst had concluded he was firmly of the view there was reasonable doubt about Kathleen Folbigg's guilt.

Daley said he had sought legal advice over the weekend and weighed up his options carefully.

"I consider that his reasons establish exceptional circumstances of the kind that weigh heavily in favour of the grant of a free pardon.

"And that in the interests of justice Ms Folbigg should be released from custody as soon as possible."

The Attorney-General said he met with the NSW Governor Margaret Beazley this morning and recommended she exercised the Royal prerogative of mercy and grant the prisoner an unconditional pardon.

"Ms Folbigg has now been pardoned," he said.

Daley said Kathleen Folbigg was notified last night.

He also said he spoke to the father of the four children, Craig Folbigg, to inform him of the decision.

"I am thinking of him today as well," he said.

"It will be a tough day for him."

New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley speaks at a media conference

New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley speaks at a media conference on Monday Photo: Supplied via ABC

The pardon follows a long campaign for justice by Folbigg's supporters.

Greens MP Sue Higginson said: "Right now justice has been done and it's not a day too soon."

"Now all power to Kathleen as she tries to remedy and seek some justice in retrospect for the 20 years she has lost."

Daley said the case had been a terrible ordeal for all concerned.

"I hope that our actions today put some closure on this 20-year-old matter," he said.

"I am grateful as well, and all citizens should be, that the review provisions are available in NSW to ensure that where circumstances arise like these ones justice can be ultimately done even if it takes a long time."

Folbigg, now 55, always denied killing her children Caleb, Patrick, Laura and Sarah but was convicted of smothering them in a trial that relied on circumstantial evidence.

The recent inquiry in her convictions, which concluded in April, heard new scientific evidence that suggested the deaths of the children could be due to natural causes.

"The ultimate submission of counsel assisting is that on the whole of the body of evidence before this inquiry, there is a reasonable doubt as to Ms Folbigg's guilt," counsel assisting Sophie Callan SC said in her closing remarks.

Expert witnesses to the inquiry revealed that a rare gene mutation, CALM2 G114R, may have caused the deaths of Laura and Sarah.

The barrister for NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Dean Jordan SC, said the discovery of the gene mutation: "fundamentally changes our understanding of the circumstances leading to the deaths of the girls."

Jordan said pathology evidence relevant to the death of each Folbigg child was not available when she stood trial in 2003.

There was also evidence that the first-born child, Caleb, may have had an underlying genetic disorder that predisposed him to epilepsy.

The inquiry also heard that it would be unreliable to rely on Kathleen Folbigg's diary entries as admissions of guilt.

At the trial, the diary entries were seen as admissions of guilt, but experts who had since analysed them for the first time told the judicial inquiry they were the expressions of a depressed and grieving mother.

Daley said he wished Folbigg well for the rest of her life.

"I think we all have to put ourselves in Ms Folbigg's shoes and let her now have the space she needs to get on with her life.

"It's been a 20-year-long ordeal for her."

It will now be up to the head of the inquiry to refer the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal to consider whether the convictions should be quashed.

Folbigg could then sue the state of NSW for compensation or seek an ex gratia payment.


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