The Last Person Sentenced to Death in Australia

Brenda Hodge’s troubling story and the final abolition of capital punishment in the country

Adam M Wakeling

--

The gallows at Fremantle Prison, last used for the execution of Eric Edgar Cooke on 26 October 1964 (Chris Quinn, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Licence)

“It is the sentence of this court that you be returned to your former custody, and at a time and place appointed by the Governor-in-Council, that you be hanged by the neck till you are dead, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul”.

TThe jury had not accepted the defence of provocation. After deliberating for four and a half hours, they had found Brenda Hodge guilty of the murder of her partner, Peter Rafferty. The venue was the impressive Federation-style courthouse in Kalgoorlie, deep in the arid goldfields of Western Australia. The date was 14 August 1984.

None of the journalists covering Hodge’s trial recorded if Justice William Pidgeon of the state’s Supreme Court donned the black cap when he sentenced her to death. Before the mid-twentieth century, no judge in one of Her Majesty’s courts would have pronounced the supreme penalty of the law without one. But the elaborate rituals around the death sentence steadily fell out of use, just as the sentence itself did. Death remained the mandatory sentence for…

--

--

Adam M Wakeling

Adam Wakeling is an Australian writer, lawyer and historian. He is online at https://www.amwakeling.com/ and on Twitter @AdamMWakeling.