Two boys who used a gay dating app to lure a man to a secluded spot on the NSW south coast where he was beaten, bound and later died will be awarded costs for their legal expenses after successfully arguing they shouldn’t have been charged with murder.
Peter Keeley died in February 2020 when he travelled from his Canberra home to Broulee after using Grindr to arrange what he thought was a sexual encounter with an 18-year-old man.
One of the boys took Mr Keeley to a deserted spot where two other boys lay in wait in the bush.
They tied Mr Keeley’s wrists and ankles and assaulted him before leaving him there.
He was also found with tape around his face but not covering his mouth.
Two of the boys, who were 17 years old at the time of the incident and cannot be identified, were charged with murder.
They pleaded not guilty and following a five-day judge-alone trial in June last year were acquitted.
They did, however, plead guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated kidnapping.
During sentencing proceedings last year, Justice Michael Walton found the offending involved “considerable violence” and “elements of vigilantism”.
“The criminal behaviour stemmed from a dangerous and misguided idea which according to (one of the boys) ‘all went terribly wrong’,” Justice Walton said in his sentencing judgment.
One of the boys was sentenced to a minimum of three years and 10-months and will be eligible for release in December.
The other was given a jail sentence with a two-year, 11-month non-parole period.
The two boys instituted proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court seeking payment of their legal costs, arguing they should not have been charged with murder.
The Crown prosecution case at trial was that Mr Keeley died due to “airways asphyxiation with craniofacial injuries” and relied on an autopsy report produced by forensic pathologist Bernard I’Ons.
At trial, the central issue was the cause of death, with Professor Johan Duflou, who was called by the defence, disagreeing with Dr I’Ons’ findings.
The defence argued that the Crown prosecution failed to consider the possibility that Mr Keeley’s death was caused by the methamphetamine in his system.
“Ultimately, the court was not satisfied that the Crown had established beyond a reasonable doubt that the cause of death was cranial factual trauma with airway obstruction,” Justice Walton said in a judgment on Tuesday.
Justice Walton concluded it was unreasonable to have instituted the murder proceedings and ordered that a costs certificate be issued for the two boys.
The matter will return to court at a later date when an order will be made on the amount awarded for their legal costs.