Tamica Mullaley receives pardon over conviction for police assault on night baby Charlie abducted

The WA government has formally apologised to and pardoned a woman convicted of assaulting a police officer after she was violently bashed by her ex-partner, who then abducted and killed her baby. 

Warning: This story contains images and names of Indigenous people who have died.

In making the apology, Attorney-General John Quigley recounted how in March 2013, Tamica Mullaley endured the “unthinkable”.

Following a “sustained and vicious attack” at the hands of her partner Mervyn Bell, she was left naked and bleeding on the streets of Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley.

Police were called, but in the chaotic scenes that followed, a “confused” Ms Mullaley was arrested for assaulting a police officer, and later handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence. 

Her child’s grandfather, Ted Mullaley, had asked officers to take baby Charlie, but he was instead passed to friends before Bell took him from their house while Ms Mullaley was receiving treatment for her injuries in hospital.

In the 15 hours that followed Bell tortured the child, before rushing his lifeless body to a roadhouse near Karratha, almost 1,000 kilometres away.

Charles Mullaley
Baby Charlie was tortured and killed after being kidnapped by Bell in WA’s north.(Supplied)

Charlie’s injuries included burns, broken bones, internal bleeding and severe abrasions. 

‘Clearly deficient’ police response

At the time, Mr Mullaley was also charged with obstructing police.

Mr Quigley announced both had been pardoned by the Governor under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

“Instead, the system we thought we could rely on to support victims of crime failed Tamica and Ted, and they were dragged through the courts themselves,” he said.

“These pardons are a show of mercy, for Tamica and Ted, it has been a long time coming.”

A bespectacled John Quigley wearing a blue suit, white shirt and blue tie with pink polka dots.
John Quigley apologised for the way Ms Mullaley and her father Ted were treated by police and the WA government. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

With both Ms Mullaley and her father in Parliament, Mr Quigley also apologised for a “clearly deficient” police response.

“Tamica was not treated by police at the scene as a victim of domestic violence,” he said.

“Tamica and Ted, for that, I am truly sorry. You deserve much better from the police and from the government. We are sorry.”

Mr Quigley said he could not find another case where pardons had been granted in similar circumstances.

Crimes ‘shocked the public conscience’

In 2014, Bell was sentenced to at least 27 years in prison for murder, in a crime that was described as “evil” and one which “shocks the public conscience” by then-Justice John McKechnie. 

Mervyn Kenneth Douglas Bell
Mervyn Bell abducted baby Charlie shortly after police arrested Ms Mullaley.

The next year, Bell took his own life in the special handling unit of Casuarina Prison.

A report by the Corruption and Crime Commission in 2016 found there had been a “delayed and ineffective response” by individual officers on the night Ms Mullaley was arrested, but concluded it was “impossible to know” whether a more rapid response could have changed the outcome.

Ms Mullaley and her family had been campaigning for a coronial inquest into baby Charlie’s death, but that was rejected by Supreme Court judge Rene Le Miere in 2020. 

Charles Derschow-Mullaley
Ms Mullaley’s push for an inquest into Charlie’s death was unsuccessful.(Supplied)

An inquest, from a legal perspective, is held to produce new evidence or clarify the facts around a death, with any recommendations about police policy or procedures ancillary to that function.

At the time, Ms Mullaley had been hoping to appeal directly to Attorney-General John Quigley to order an inquest.

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