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Ronald Ryan anniversary and exhibition
06 February 2017
On Friday 3 February 2017, the Supreme Court observed the 50th anniversary of Ronald Ryan, the last person in Australia to be convicted of murder and receive the mandatory sentence of death.
The decision drew much community and media attention and after delays caused by appeals to higher courts and the Privy Council, the execution went ahead on 3 February 1967.
Community opinion on capital punishment was so high Australian courts moved to remove it from federal, state and territory law. Victoria abolished the death penalty for its statute in 1975.
The Supreme Court held a commemorative event on Friday evening, which included a re-enactment of the verdict and sentence in The Queen v Ryan and Walker in court 4, where the trial took place 50 years ago, followed by observances in the Supreme Court Library.
Following opening remarks made by Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, guest speakers Mr Brian Burke (Junior Counsel for Ronald Ryan, 1966-67), Dr Mike Richards (author, The Hanged Man: the life & death of Ronald Ryan) and the Hon. Dr Barry Jones AC (Secretary Anti-Hanging Committee, Victoria 1962-75) spoke about Ryan’s death and the abolition of capital punishment in Australia.
More than 160 members of the public attended the event.
A new exhibition about the history of capital punishment in Victoria was also launched on Friday in the Supreme Court Library.
Artifacts from the Ronald Ryan trial and others, including the last woman executed in Victoria, Jean Lee, are on display. The exhibition will run through to the end of the July and can be viewed in the Supreme Court Library during business hours