On Thursday, Judge Ian Harrison agreed and awarded him $1.48 million in punitive damages in the case alleging malicious prosecution, misdemeanor misconduct in public office and collateral abuse of process.
Jubelin’s role was central to the case, with Spedding telling the court that he had a tense conversation with the detective at the police station shortly after his arrest.
He said that Jubelin called him “Mr. nice washing machine man” and told him “I’m going to ruin you”. Another detective said he heard “mr. nice washing machine man” said in a derogatory and sarcastic tone, but not the last sentence.
The court examined passages from Jubelin’s book, I catch killerswho described the Spedding investigation and said he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t try to take advantage of the “additional pressure” the charges placed on Spedding.
“If he’s hiding something, this might be enough to break him open,” Jubelin wrote.
He also wrote, “I am about to pull the trigger on a man’s life… Accuse him of these crimes and there was no way to hide it. Get it wrong and I will destroy it.”
Jubelin denied warning the media of Spedding’s imminent arrest and giving his address, but Harrison said he was convinced Jubelin himself, or an officer acting on his instructions, was responsible.
“Mr Spedding’s frantic and ill-conceived arrest could never, in my opinion, have been justified and was clearly malicious,” said Harrison.
“I am satisfied that there was no reasonable or probable cause for initiating or pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Spedding.”
The judge said the conclusion drawn from the evidence is that Jubelin “exercised a high degree of control over the investigation and played an important role in establishing and sustaining the criminal proceedings”.
Spedding earned $270,516.60 in legal fees before being cleared of the historic charges in 2018 — but his nightmare wasn’t over. In early 2020, police arrived at his home after receiving an anonymous tip that William was being held in a cellar there. He had no basement.
Spedding, who is on an old age pension, told the court he remains very concerned and vigilant about being in public, afraid people are watching him.
“I never know when someone will jump out of the woodwork and grab my throat again and say, ‘You’re Bill Spedding, what were you doing with William?'” Spedding said.
On Thursday, he had a smile on his face as he left court holding his wife Margaret’s hand. He said he felt relief, but “no amount of money will restore the life I enjoyed before this horrible nightmare”.
“The criminal charges maliciously filed against me by the police have destroyed me and publicly portrayed me as a pedophile,” Spedding said. “My reputation was seriously and permanently damaged. My family life fell apart.”
Spedding said his case should alert police that the decision to prosecute should not be taken lightly.
“I hope the mystery surrounding William’s disappearance is solved soon, and I hope that the misfocus on me as a suspect has not irreparably damaged the prospect of solving this mystery,” he said.
Spedding’s lawyer, Peter O’Brien, said the “myopic and blind” focus on his client shows that bad police work can lead to bad results, “and probably also explains why William is still missing”.
“Police closed their minds to the possibility of his innocence, and the focus on him as a suspect distracted them from pursuing other leads in their investigation,” O’Brien said. “It was the worst possible example of bad police work.”
In a statement, NSW Police said it would review the court’s decision. “As that review is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
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