‘Highly unusual’: Police hold missing camper suspect without charge for 70-plus hours

Lawyers and criminal justice advocates say police holding missing campers suspect Greg Lynn for more than 70 hours without charge is highly unusual, and one has suggested investigators may soon approach a tipping point at which they will be legally required to release him.

Police have held Mr Lynn, 55, of Caroline Springs, for close to three days since his arrest over last year’s disappearance of campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay. The dramatic arrest was carried out by special operations group officers at a remote campsite at Arbuckle Junction at 5.30pm on Monday.

Greg Lynn.Credit:Facebook

Authorities are lawfully allowed to hold anyone suspected of a crime for a “reasonable” period under the Crimes Act.

The reasonableness of that period is not set in law, though, and is governed by the number of offences and complexity of the offending. It can also include visiting a suspected scene and other locations linked to it.

Veteran criminal barrister Philip Dunn, QC, said it was “highly unusual, to have such publicity and then keep the person detained”.

“They can’t keep him there forever,” he added.

“The question is, is two days enough? Is 60 hours enough? Is 100 hours enough? There is no set period of time under the law because the circumstances of offending can change.”

Mr Dunn said the law put limitations in place on investigators, to promote transparency and fairness, but that those limits were not set in stone.

Mr Lynn was interviewed police earlier in the investigation into the disappearance of the pair in March last year.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton declined to comment specifically on the interviewing of Mr Lynn over the past few days, but said on Thursday morning that he was hopeful the “complex” case would be resolved soon.

“I’m hopeful it’ll be resolved fairly soon, yes. But I don’t want to preempt what the investigators will do,” he told 3AW.

The four-wheel-drive impounded by police on Monday and, inset, missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.Credit:Nine News

“This has been one of the most complex investigations that I’ve ever been briefed on. And the challenges when you look at the remoteness of the area and the number of investigation avenues and lines of inquiry that need to be stepped through and eliminated.

“This literally is one where you have to chase every rabbit down every rabbit hole.”

Lawyers can also compel the release of a suspect with a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court. An old and rarely invoked legal principle, the writ requires a prisoner to be brought before a court and to determine whether the suspect is being legally held.

Australian Lawyers Alliance Victorian representative Robert Starry said in his 40 years of criminal law practice he couldn’t remember a suspect being held for this long in Victoria.

“There could be a plethora of reasons why police are taking so long to bring the person before a court,” he said.

He said the period of time suspects were typically held had increased over the years because of the changes in investigation techniques, including the increasing use of CCTV, forensics, installed listening devices to underpin charges.

“It’s unusual to arrest someone and hold them for so long in custody. The question is whether it’s reasonable to hold him for so long, and the only people that can answer that are the police involved and the people advising him.”

Robinson Gill principal Jeremy King called the situation highly unusual.

Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper from the Missing Persons Squad appealing for information in early November.Credit:Joe Armao

“There is going to come a tipping point here because this can’t go on forever,” he said. “How long can you hold someone without charging them without the court process kicking in? You’d think they’re getting close.

“It’s a very, very unusual situation. Ordinarily, someone would be interviewed, charged and put before a bail court within the period that this man has been held. It’s an unusually long time period.”

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