THE decision by the Queensland Court of Appeal to downgrade Gerard Baden-Clay's conviction for the murder of his wife to one of manslaughter has incensed many people in the community.

Rather than be annoyed, it is a perfect demonstration of why we are lucky to live under the rule of law in a democratic nation like Australia.

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It proves that we can all be assured that if misfortune or misadventure ever comes our way, we will be treated exactly according to the rules.

We want our courts to be absolutely scrupulous in their interpretation of all laws, not just the ones we like.
 

The late Allison Baden-Clay.
The late Allison Baden-Clay. Contributed

This is why friends and family of a victim don't get to serve on the jury in the trial - the law is dispassionate and all are equal before it.

The hurdle for a conviction in a criminal trial is the accused must be guilty "beyond reasonable doubt".

This protects us all.

We wouldn't want to be convicted of something we didn't do, and we don't want other people convicted of the wrong offence either.

While it is difficult for those of us not in the legal profession to understand, there is a big difference between murder and manslaughter, even though the outcome for the victim is the same.

And it is an important distinction because it deals with the perpetrator's intentions at the time the killing took place.
 

 

Gerard Baden-Clay attending the funeral of his slain wife Allison
Gerard Baden-Clay attending the funeral of his slain wife Allison David Nielsen

 

As a society, we often make allowances for circumstances surrounding somebody killing another.

Was it self-defence? Were they insane? Did they have a huge history of violence with the victim? Was it an accident? Is it a doctor assisting a terminally ill person to end their suffering?

The Baden-Clay appeal goes to the heart of these issues.

If there wasn't enough evidence to show Baden-Clay intended to kill his wife, the jury cannot find him guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The Appeal Court still found he was responsible for her death, and he may yet still spend a very long time behind bars.

True, our sense of justice is offended by this downgrading.

No matter how you dress it up a lovely woman has had her life taken by a grub, and that can never be changed.

But we need to breathe a collective sigh of relief that the system designed to protect our rights works.


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