Let's Talk: Does this case prove we need to change our laws?

Michael Atkins (left) is leading police to the body of his partner Matthew Leveson (right) who disappeared in 2007. Source: YouTube

The law can certainly be difficult to understand.

And a case this week has many questioning whether our laws need to be changed.

A coronial inquest into the death of 20-year-old Matthew Leveson in 2007 has ended with a legal twist like something out of a TV show.

Leveson’s older partner Michael Atkins, who was acquitted of his murder in 2009, was compelled to testify at the inquest.

After five days of intense questioning, Atkins agreed to lead police to Leveson’s body in return for immunity from prosecution.

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The case has led to New South Wales police and Leveson’s family searching for his body in the Royal National Park near Sydney.

So, how does it work?

Well, legal experts have been commenting across numerous media outlets today about the case and whether or not Atkins could ever be retried over Leveson’s death.

University of Technology Sydney Associate Professor Thalia Anthony told the ABC that the immunity meant Atkins could no be prosecuted for anything he said during the inquest, unless he lied or withheld evidence.

“According to the arrangement that has been made under section 61 of the coroner’s act, he is completely immune from any criminal prosecution arising from the evidence — including finding the body — that has occurred within the coronial inquest,” she said.

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“The Levesons have been very cooperative in the coronial jurisdiction and so they’ve sought to get to the bottom of the matter rather than pursue damages and indeed the nature of the legislation that provides immunity.”

It’s a tough decision for Leveson’s heartbroken family, who have been pushing for years to get answers from Atkins.

His mother Faye Leveson said the family understood it was the only way they could ever find their son’s body.


“Whatever he tells us, that directly or indirectly gives us back Matty and whatever is found … from that information, he cannot be prosecuted for it,” she told the ABC.

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“In other words, it’s a get out of jail free card. We get Matt and he walks.

“It wasn’t a decision we made lightly — we made the decision as a family,” she said.

“In the way we look at it, it’s a win-lose situation, otherwise it would be a lose-lose situation. Without it we have no hope.

“We just want to bring him home and give him a send-off, a celebration of his life. What every human being deserves and what our son deserves.”

The deal means that Atkins can only be given immunity if Leveson’s body is found.

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The ABC is reporting that police and legal experts are investigating whether there is any chance of ever charging Atkins over the death.

It’s reportedly possible that evidence found outside of the inquest could lead to charges.

What do you think of the laws? Should a person suspected of murder be given immunity if they can lead the family to the body?