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Tasmanian coroner Simon Cooper calls for 'Jari's Law' to be reversed, says it will overwhelm Tasmania’s inquest system

Pulse Tasmania
Jari Wise

A Tasmanian coroner is calling for the reversal of “Jari’s Law”, an amendment to the Coroners Act that will force coroners to hold inquests into all deaths involving suspected family violence, even if there are no criminal proceedings.

Coroner Simon Cooper made the strong comments on Monday in his findings into the 2020 death of Huon Valley man Jari Wise, who was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by his partner, Melissa Oats.

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Cooper concluded that Oats had not intentionally hit Wise and there was no evidence to suggest that Wise had jumped in front of the vehicle.

He noted that Oats was “grossly intoxicated”, speeding and should not have been driving at the time.

In his published findings, Cooper stood by his original decision not to hold an inquest, a move that was overruled by former Attorney General Elise Archer.

Jari Wise

He reiterated that holding the inquest would serve “no purpose” as it would “not unearth any additional information”.

Jari’s Law, named after Wise and advocated for by his mother Faith Tkalac, was passed by the Tasmanian House of Assembly in November 2023 but has yet to be officially proclaimed.

“I urge the appropriate authorities to consider taking steps to reverse this most unfortunate exercise in ‘law reform’,” Cooper said.

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“Early estimates indicate that Tasmanian coroners will, as a result of the amendment, be required to hold at least double the number of public inquests.”

“The effect of this upon an already strained coronial system will be to significantly delay all inquests, thereby increasing the grief and trauma of many families in our community.”

Under the amendment, families who do not wish for a public inquest to held would be subjected to the broadcast of sensitive information about the deceased and their family members “for no good reason at all”, Cooper said.

“Coroners in this state are well accustomed by reason of training and experience to determine when matters should or should not be the subject of an inquest,” he said.

“On a not infrequent basis, coroners determine that particular deaths involving family violence issues should be the subject of public inquest. In the cases where a coroner decides against the holding of an inquest, consideration is given to the wishes of the senior next of kin and other persons with a sufficient interest.”

‘Justice4Jari’

“In such cases, a right exists to have the coroner’s decision reviewed by the Supreme Court. As a matter of course, the senior next of kin is advised of their rights in this regard.”

His mother Faith Tkalac, who did unsuccessfully appeal to the Supreme Court over the decision not to hold an inquest before Archer stepped in, expressed mixed feelings about Cooper’s findings.

“Simon Cooper has said ‘yes, that Jari didn’t jump in front of Melissa’s car’. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I wanted to hear and I’m content with that,” Tkalac said on Monday.

“I feel I have to push again. I don’t know. I’m not happy with it. It’s not the end.”

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