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Chat: Phil Cleary

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interviewer: Welcome Phil to tonight’s live online interview

Phil Cleary: I appreciated the way the program was constructed and I appreciate the opportunity to talk with people about what is a very important question.

Sandy asks: Do you consider the actions of the female victims are at all relevant in explaing the rage of the killer?

Phil Cleary: Yes, but only to the extent that they invariably concern that the killing is an act of revenge. And therefore, it can never be a way of justifying the killing. Put simply, women are killed because they say they want to leave a relationship or they say they are unhappy about a relationship.

marcia asks: The law in this country is an absolute bloody joke. Do we have to become a vigilante society to protect ourselves and our loved ones?

Phil Cleary: We need to change the laws to ensure that no man can ever use a defence based on a women expressing her lawful human rights. That's one part of the challenge. The other is that the state must take the protection of women far more seriously. To many men have killed a woman after she has taken out an intervention order. I receive emails again and again from women who are frightened of men and I am left wondering why we do not have a mechanism for stopping those men for terrorising those women. If you're sister or your daughter is being harassed or bullied by a man, you do what you can to look after her, lawfully.

sarahjane asks: how can the citizens have say in changing the law? a couple years seems unreasonable so why haven’t they changed this yet?

Phil Cleary: The Provocation Law was abolished in Victoria, but the court rooms continued with the same story of blaming women as in, as seen in one of the cases on 60 minutes tonight. In NSW, the Provocation Law is under review and I will be speaking at the inquiry at the parliament this week. What good people must do campaign publicly on the internet and everywhere else to tell the government that they are sick of tired of judges giving wife killers trivial jail terms. These jail terms are an insult to women and send a violent message to men.

furious asks: Phil do you feel it all boils down to your legal representation rather than true justice.

Phil Cleary: Not exactly. A wife killer can have legal aid or they can have an expensive lawyer and still get the same result. It's more about the way court rooms allow women to be belittled and demonised. It's about the way judges turn a blind eye to a defence lawyer, blacken the name of a dead woman. So often defence lawyers so besmirch the character of a women, that juries seem to think her life isn't as valuable as some other woman. The law must stop defence lawyers with getting away with this kind of legal argument.

William asks: What was the hardest part about getting passed your loss?

Phil Cleary: It's one thing to lose your sister when she's 25 years of age, it's another to have a court room of ordinary Australians say that she somehow provoked a violent man to stab her to death as she parked her car for work on the 26th of August 1987, which is today, 25 years ago. One of the hardest things to deal with was that a court room blamed my sister, my mum and dad's first born daughter for her own death. One of the hardest things to managed was to see the court sentence a violent man sentence to 3 years and 11 months to jail. These things I cannot get over, and I won't get over them over, but I might get over the marginally if someone says "sorry". My mother and father died last year. my father in January and my mother in August. Dad was 83, mum was 78. And I saw the pain that they endured, not simply because of Vicky's murder, but because of the terrible injustice. And that's been very hard to live with.

Ronald asks: Does the same law apply to women who kill their husbands?

Phil Cleary: This is somewhat complex, but in another sense quite simple. the law of Provocation applies in theory equally to men and women. The problem is that is a woman was to kill a man, it was less likely she will do it in the same spontaneous way men do, and run a provocation defence. It is extremely for a woman to overpower to kill a woman, in the way tonight's women in 60 minutes were killed. So when a woman kills, she usually does it with some pre-meditation and planning, and that stops her from getting the provocation defence. The other important thing to remember is that women rarely kill in an act of revenge, usually when they kill a man, it's because of years of violence.

gina asks: I was interested in the story tonight and what I wonder, is who the hell is in the jury to make such decisions about women being the one in the wrong

Phil Cleary: Well sadly, what happens is that the story that are told in the court are so favourable to the men that juries seem to fall into the blaming of women. And too often, the way judges talk about the cases leads juries into the acceptable of the provocation defence, or when a women is blamed for the man's action. I can't explain how shocking the kinds of arguments put in the court really are. I know of a case in 1988 where nude photos of a murdered woman were admitted as evidence by the judge on the grounds that they showed that she was so beautiful that a man would be likely to be passionate about her, so much that in losing her he might lose her. That was a case that crown vs Crowb, and I have written about this in my website and books. It is an astounding case of how far defence lawyers will go to blacken the image of a woman.

Roger asks: G'day Phil...so a woman being unfaithful doesn't arouse strong emotions in her partner ?

Phil Cleary: Well men have been unfaithful for centuries, but when have they been killed? How many women kill men who are unfaithful? You can name so many public figures in Australia who were unfaithful in Australia, and did women kill them? Of course it hurts when there is a breach of trust in a relationship, of course relationships are complex, but how can that be a justification in reducing a crime of murder to manslaughter? It's absurd! If we follow that logic through, there would be no men living! There would be dead prime ministers and leaders everywhere, not killed by assassins but killed by their wives.

Red_Sue asks: Is there a link to the men having personality disorders etc or is the violence totally unpredictable?

Phil Cleary: That's a very interesting question. If it's a personality disorder, we'd probably call it misogyny. As in women hatred, and we cannot diminish the gravity of the crime because a man refuses to let a woman go, or says that that woman belongs to me. Or that any woman that says she will no longer be with me deserves my wrath. But sadly so many men who kill women are like that, possessive, dominating and controlling. But they have no right to stop a woman who wants to be free. My sister sought nothing by her freedom from her killer Paul Keogh. And she paid for her freedom with her life. We have to tell every man that we will never be less of a crime because his personality makes it hard for him to let a woman go.

furious asks: Does the provocation defence apply in other areas outside of personal relationships ?

Phil Cleary: Yes it does. It has it's origins in the realm of male behaviour and male antagonism. e.g. the Bar room brawl, a man strikes another man etc. It's been extended in dangerous ways into intimate relationships. I don't have a problem with the concept of provocation, it's really about the way the court has interpreted it, especially in relation to the kill of woman.

Tyler asks: What sort of warning signs are show if a family member or friend is doing through a similar situation? What is the best way to raise public awareness to this issue?

Phil Cleary: Over the past 25 years, since my sister's murder. There's been on going media coverage of the question of the killing of women by the men in their lives, and the treatment of that killing in the courts. The society is far more centred in to the question now than they were 25 years ago. The police is far more sensitive to the question than it was 25 years ago. Governments are far more sensitive too. What people need to do is just campaign, just campaign. Talk to your politician, go up to the police station if you have a problem, tell your friends. don't hide it. If a man is being threatening to a women after a separation, your antennas should go up. And you need to think of ways of getting that woman out of the problem. The most dangerous times are the months after the separation.

Zumuj asks: If the genders were reversed in a similar case of murder, do you think women would get an equal amount of sentence as men?

Phil Cleary: In recent times, the courts have been more respective of situations of where women have killed men, so it would be fair to say that in some courts women have been found no guilty after killing men. But those are in situation where it is an established fact that the man is violent and the woman was well in danger. That's quite different where men kill women, the men are never in danger. So it's two quite different killings. Totally different. Short answer, provocation has been no friend of women. The provocation defence has been no friend of women.

buddy asks: People who grew up in countries where killing their wife is acceptable seem to think they can carry this out in our country-how can we possibly get them to understand it is not acceptable?

Phil Cleary: I have to say that is not the truth. The man who killed my sister was an ordinary Aussie bloke. The bloke who killed Jade, who was talked about in tonight's show was an ordinary Aussie bloke. The other fellow who killed the woman in QLD was an ordinary Aussie bloke. So it's not about nationality, or ethnicity. Aussie men kill women and get found not guilty of murder, and get light sentences (less than 4 years). Don't blame nationality. Blame the courtroom, blame the judges.

bowspearer asks: Phil, I agree that loopholes need to be closed, but I'd also argue that we need to reform our whole approach to domestic violence. We need to abandon gender profiling and actually train police to properly recognise abusers and victims (that's not even getting into how woefully unprepared the law is to recognise, let alone deal with, mutually abusive relationships). In turn the battered spouse defence is equally able to be abused. It's all to easy for an abusive woman in an exclusively female-on-male abusive relationship to kill her battered male spouse and claim a battered spouse defence and because the law is trained to protect the woman and prosecute the man (rather than identifying the abuser and victim and protecting the victim and prosecuting the abuser), get off on those grounds. Your thoughts (I say this as a battered man who has previously fled an exclusively female-on-male abusive relationship)?

Phil Cleary: The facts are that in domestic settings, it is women who are killed by men. That is not my opinion, that is a statement of statistical fact. Women who are killed are most often killed by the man in their life. In other words, the majority of murdered women are murdered by the man in their life. There is no point arguing that men are killed by women, cause that is not what the facts tell us. Is it possible for a man to be abused by a woman? Yes. It is possible for a man to be frightened by a woman? yes, But in majority of cases, it is the woman who is frightened of the man, not the other way around. And I can say from experience, having been in a football setting, having couched football, having been involved for many years, that men are not frightened of women.

bradsmum asks: just how do you protect a woman who is being constantly bullied and threatened by her ex even 4 years after the end of a relationship???

Phil Cleary: You have to go to the police. If this is happening you must get an intervention order against that man. And if the police are not accommodating, then you must continue and find people who are so that the authorities are pressured to do that. If the facts are as you tell me, this man must be advised that he is in breach of the woman's human rights.

holdendame asks: If nobody believes you are in danger, how can one be protected, lawfully?

Phil Cleary: I think we've reached a point where it is harder for people to say that you are not in danger. Even if the police force are open to criticism of this question, there are enough good police who understand and are passionate to addressing threats to a woman by an intimate partner. You need to document the threats. You need to go to domestic violent centres that you should consider talking to. Seek out those organisations that have a role in this area.

AAl12 asks: Following on with the theme of the interview but taking a different perspective is PMT / PMS a justifiable grounds for defence for murder?

Phil Cleary: I've never come across of a case where a woman has argued that, but the irony is in the case of James Ramage, who strangled his wife, and went to trial in Victoria in 2004. The jury was told that Ramage's estranged wife had a tampon in in-situ. This was an attempt to show that the woman might have been menstruating and was therefore a little irrational when she met her human on the day that he killed her. It is an example of the absurd and barbaric argument that are put in trials in which a woman is murdered.

annepitt asks: Is there any particular space in which this campaign on the internet would be most effective?

Phil Cleary: Go to twitter, go online, spread the word! Send me an email at philcleary@bigpond.com . Send an email to politicians in the government, to the prime Minister. Bombard the parliament. Send emails to all of these people, saying you saw the program on 60 minutes and you're outraged by the treatment of women. It can happen, and these days with the internet, there is greater capacity to mobilise.

gina asks: what does it matter who or what the woman does? you can not kill anyone I feel, who makes it ok to kill anyone? The law is wrong and I feel the judge and jury and the lawyers are to blame

Phil Cleary: I couldn't agree more. And so we should look at exactly what goes on in the court room. Don't think it is just a matter of the sentence. The sentence is the aftermath, it's what proceeds the sentence that matters. It's what lawyers say about women in the court that matters. Every woman should be outraged to think that they could be the woman whose life is being smashed in a court room by a lawyer. No woman is safe from that and we have to stop it and if we don't stop it, men will continue to think that you can kill the woman if she doesn't come to heel. So the woman says she is leaving, I kill her. We have to stop that idea in it's tracks. We have to tell judges and juries and defence lawyers that we've had a gut full of that happening to women.

Rachel asks: What do you feel would be the best we can do until these laws get changed? Do you think educating young men to be effective or do you think the problem is bigger than that?

Phil Cleary: That's a very good point. Of course we must tell our sons and our brothers, and our male friends that we will not be a party to those kinds of barbaric views. We've got to tell our mates that we do not accept the idea that you can commit harm to a woman because she says "I'm leaving you". We can give comfort to a man who experiences a separation and we can be compassionate. But we can never entertain him, suggesting that his wife deserves to be hurt or is solely to be blamed for the relationship breaking down. So it is very very important that we tell all men. Judges, defence lawyers and ordinary blokes in the community down at the football club or any other sporting venue where blokes gather, we need to tell them that we do not accept male violence as normality. Good men have a big challenge, and I continue to say that good men in the world of sport and football in blokey culture, you fly the flag too. Wearing the white ribbon to say we will not tolerate violence, and we will never give comfort to violent men. And when it comes to the court, we will condemn those trials in which violent men are excused of their crimes. Violent men like the man who killed my sister, like those men in tonight's program, they will get no comfort for me, and I hope they get no comfort from good men throughout the community right across Australia and else where. So teach our sons to respect our mothers and sisters, teach them to understand that woman do not serve them. That is really important and I'm glad that that question was raised.

Interviewer: Phil, thanks very much for joining us this evening. Do you have any final comments before we finish up?

Phil Cleary: I welcome the conversation tonight and I really appreciated it. I have to say that along the way I've gained strength from the emails and the phone calls and the letters from women and men about this broad campaign. The fact that we are having this conversation is so important. The fact that it is out there in the public domain is so important. There was a time when it was a private matter, now it is public. And I congratulate everyone at 60 minutes to producing a segment that I thought was strongly considered and powerful. I appreciated the fact that the mothers were strong women, the mothers of the murdered girls were strong women. They shared their inner pain that they put forward very considered views of what their daughters meant to them. We should look at every case, for every murdered girl that there is a mother that she may have looked like if she wasn't struck down. I think it was a powerful program and I'm really glad to have been part of this interview and I respect what the producer did and the way Tara went about it. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk and I can see it mattered to them. I wasn't just television, and good work to all the people who have come tonight and to all of you, I say take this struggle and campaign this to the world. These are young woman who are expressing hope and joy that they are escaping potentially violent men and were instead struck down. After my sister was stabbed the ambulance officer went to her and she said to him, "Please don't let me die" and she used the same words to the doctor at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She said that because she just realised some degree of happiness and realised what her life could look like. And as my mother said, she was killed twice, once in the kinder garden and once again in the court. And I feel for the mothers in the court, because like their mother they saw their daughters struck down twice and we need to put an end to the violence and the court rooms that treat women this way. Be strong.

Interviewer: This concludes our chat with Phil Cleary, Sunday August 26, 2012.

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