Bill Spedding wins malicious prosecution case,awarded $1.48 million

Bill Spedding has won a malicious prosecution case against the State of NSW and been awarded $1.48 million after he successfully argued he was charged with historical sex offences to put pressure on him amid the investigation into William Tyrrell’s disappearance.

Spedding,71,was one of the early suspects into the toddler’s 2014 disappearance;however,he was later ruled out.

Bill Spedding speaks after being awarded $1.48 million in damages.

Bill Spedding speaks after being awarded $1.48 million in damages.Nick Moir

During the investigation he was publicly arrested,had his home and office searched in January 2015,participated in a gruelling six-hour interview,and was charged in April 2015 with the historical sexual assault of two children,of which he was later acquitted.

He sued the State of NSW in the Supreme Court seeking damages for malicious prosecution,misfeasance in public office,collateral abuse of process and false imprisonment.

On Thursday,Justice Ian Harrison entered judgment for Spedding and awarded him $1,484,292 plus interest for his “long and painful ordeal” which “never should have occurred”.

Bill Spedding leaves court on Thursday with his wife.

Bill Spedding leaves court on Thursday with his wife.Nick Moir

Harrison said he was satisfied the charges were instituted and maintained to further the William Tyrrell investigation and punish Spedding for his suspected involvement. He said the “harsh and cynical” strategy was “never viable,nor was it proper”.

“The allegations for which he was prosecuted were old and discredited. They were frail and notoriously so,” Harrison said. “Mr Spedding’s experience left him distressed,confused,wrongly imprisoned and separated from his family.”

Harrison found Spedding was entitled to damages for all causes of action except false imprisonment. He awarded aggravated and exemplary damages,citing the “insidious level of vitriol” directed at Spedding after he was charged,including a “patently rabid” neighbour who confronted him.

The exemplary damages,which form $300,000 of the total amount,are intended “to punish the state for prosecuting him where there was no warrant for doing so”.

“I am satisfied that there was no reasonable or probable cause to institute or maintain the criminal prosecution against Mr Spedding,” Harrison said.

In a statement outside court,as he held his wife’s hand,Spedding said the malicious charges “destroyed me and publicly portrayed me as a paedophile”.

“My reputation was severely and permanently damaged. My family life was torn apart,” he said. “No sum of money will restore the life I enjoyed before this terrible nightmare.”

He said he brought the case “to show that police decisions to prosecute must not be taken lightly and,more importantly,must not be taken to achieve some ulterior purpose”.

“I was prosecuted for crimes I did not commit,all in the hope that my prosecution would further the police investigation of me as a suspect in the disappearance of William Tyrrell,” Spedding said.

“This type of conduct engaged in by the prosecuting authorities must be deterred and I hope that Justice Harrison’s decision today helps to achieve this purpose.

“I hope that the mystery surrounding William’s disappearance is solved quickly. And I hope that the incorrect focus upon me as a suspect has not irreparably damaged the prospect of solving this mystery.”

William,3,vanished from a property at Kendall on the NSW Mid North Coast on September 12,2014. Police formed Strike Force Rosann to investigate his disappearance.

The role of former lead investigator Gary Jubelin was examined in the case,including a tense conversation he had with Spedding at the police station shortly after his arrest,in which Spedding said Jubelin told him:“Mr nice washing machine man,I am going to ruin you”.

Harrison examined passages of Jubelin’s book,I Catch Killers,which described the Spedding investigation and said Jubelin wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t try to take advantage of the “extra pressure” the charges put on him.

“If he is hiding something,maybe this will be enough to crack him open,” Jubelin wrote.

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Georgina Mitchell is a court reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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