Susan Neill-Fraser's second appeal delayed until at least August

Susan Neill-Fraser aboard the yacht where her partner Bob Chappell was last seen near Hobart in 2009. Picture: Facebook
Susan Neill-Fraser aboard the yacht where her partner Bob Chappell was last seen near Hobart in 2009. Picture: Facebook

Susan Neill-Fraser's second appeal against her murder conviction has been delayed until at least August.

Neill-Fraser is serving 23-years' jail for the murder of her partner Bob Chappell who was last seen on the couple's yacht the Four Winds near Hobart on Australia Day 2009.

She maintains her innocence and a year ago successfully gained leave to appeal her conviction a second time.

Slated to start on May 25, it was agreed by both the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Neill-Fraser's lawyers the appeal was too complex to be heard remotely as is required by the court to enforce social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

DPP Daryl Coates was of the view the appeal would be impossible to conduct over video-link.

Mr Coates said some witnesses would be giving lengthy evidence and would need to be shown documents and videos.

Neill-Fraser's lawyer Chris Carr agreed the matter should be heard in a face-to-face hearing.

He said it should be heard in November to give greater certainty the matter would go ahead as scheduled.

"By November, one can have a degree of confidence there would be freer movement of counsel between the states so we can travel to Tasmania and conduct the hearing in person," Mr Carr said.

Justice Helen Wood said she would rather schedule the matter for earlier in the year even if it meant it would delayed again.

"It would be a great pity to delay this matter to November if we were to find the court could have dealt with it earlier," Justice Wood said.

Two weeks were set aside by the court to hear the matter from August 17.

The appeal will only go ahead in August if a jury trial involving Mr Carr in the Victorian Supreme Court does not go ahead, otherwise it will begin on November 2.

"We need to have a plan B in any event because we just don't know what the situation will be with coronavirus," Justice Wood said.

Justice Wood said the court would also consider letting the appeal impinge on the scheduled sittings, which would remove three judges from their work to hear the appeal.

But Justice Wood said this would have a substantial impact on the court which, due to the suspension of jury trials because of coronavirus, will have a trial backlog.

"Certainly the court will consider all options," she said.

A further directions hearing to discuss whether the appeal will go ahead in August will be held on June 22.

This story COVID-19 delays Susan Neill-Fraser's second appeal first appeared on The Examiner.