Conference paper


In 2007/8 the authors became involved in the review of the mobile phone evidence used to convict Mr Phuong Ngo in 2000 for organising the murder of John Newman, a member of the NSW Parliament, in 1994. The case was dubbed 'the first political assassination3 in Australia'. Mr Ngo was convicted at his third trial where location information from mobile phone call records was used by the prosecution to infer his location at various critical times on the night of the murder. ABC 4 Corners ran a program in April 2008 airing what was a simmering debate about the safety of the verdict. Thereafter the NSW Chief Justice established an inquiry to report to him on whether the conviction was well founded or not. That inquiry is now underway. Since reviewing the mobile phone evidence and the way it was presented in court, the authors have reviewed the way the courts have dealt with location information contained in mobile phone records across Australia and have referred to press reports of some overseas examples. Broadly, while the use of mobile phone location information has become very popular both in Australia and overseas, the way it has sometimes been used in NSW4 appears to be a case of 'making too much of too little' potentially leading to unsafe verdicts over the last 15 years. The usual problem is to move from using the records to show that calls were made and received (which is unexceptional) to using the same records as a basis for showing that a phone (and thus its user) was moving from precisely this location to precisely that location _ a use that is fraught with problems. The purpose of this paper is to examine this issue.

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