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Keli Lane has been denied parole after more than 13 years behind bars on the basis that she has never assisted authorities in finding the body of her baby daughter Tegan.

Lane, now 48-years-old, was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 13 years and 5 months, after a jury found her guilty of murdering her newborn daughter Tegan Lane, who was 2-days old.

The sentence commenced on 13 December 2010, and she is eligible for parole from 12 May 2024.

However, the New South Wales State Parole Authority has denied her request for release on parole, namely due to how Tegan’s body has never been found under the no body no parole laws in NSW.

Stricter ‘no body, no parole’ laws were introduced in 2022, and Lane is the first inmate to try and overcome this hurdle.

“The Authority is not satisfied that the offender has co-operated satisfactorily in police investigations or other actions to identify the location of Tegan.” stated the Authority, in a published determination.

It ultimately summarised, when having regard to the new laws, that it: “must not make a parole order directing the release of the offender.”

The Authority noted that no co-operation had been forthcoming from Lane in relation to Tegan’s whereabouts since her verdict and sentence.

Despite being found guilty at trial, Lane has continually maintained her innocence.

She has stated that she gave Tegan to the baby’s father shortly after her birth. However, she has been unable to adequately identify him, stating it was a man named Andrew Norris or Morris. Police have been unable to locate the man, or Tegan.

It was the Crown’s case that Tegan was born on 12 September 1996 and was deemed suitable to leave the hospital and discharged with Keli on 14 September 1996.

Between the time of their discharge and Keli’s arrival at her parent’s home at around 3pm on the afternoon of 14 September, it was found that Tegan was murdered, with her body disposed of. It remains unclear how she was killed and disposed of.

Lane was a water polo player who had aspirations of representing Australia in international competition, including the Olympic Games.

The Crown alleged that she had become pregnant five times over seven years in the 1990s which led to two terminations, two adoptions, and the murder of Tegan.

At the time, her pregnancies were unbeknownst to those around her including her partner and her parents.

In arranging care for one of the babies that was under a foster case agreement (referred to as ‘AJ’), the Department of Community Services noticed that Lane had a pregnancy in 1996, however there were no further records of the baby.

The matter was then referred to police for investigation.

Lane attempted to appeal her conviction in 2013, however this was dismissed.

In New South Wales, the new ‘no body, no parole’ laws came into effect in October 2022.

The law was in response to the conviction of Chris Dawson for the murder of his then wife Lynette Dawson. Lynette was thought missing for over 40 years, and her body has never been found.

Previously, whether an offender had failed to disclose the location of the remains of any victim was merely a consideration to take into account in making a parole order and was not determinative.

‘No Body, No Parole’ Law in New South Wales

Section 135A of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW) now provides that a parole order must not be made where an offender has not cooperated in locating the victim’s body or remains.

It applies to those who are serving a term of imprisonment for a homicide offence where the body or remains of the victim of the offence have not been located or part of the body or remains of the victim has not been located because of an act or omission of the offender or another person.

The section specifies that the Parole Authority must not make a parole order directing the release of an offender unless it is satisfied the offender has cooperated satisfactorily in police investigations or other actions to identify the victim’s location.

The cooperation may occur before or after the offender has been sentenced to imprisonment for the offence.

Before the Parole Authority proposes to make a decision about making a parole order directing the release of a relevant offender, the Commissioner of Police is required to provide a written report which details whether the offender has provided cooperation.

If the offender has given cooperation, the report will evaluate its nature, extent and timeliness, the truthfulness, completeness and reliability of any information or evidence provided, and the significance and usefulness of the offender’s cooperation in relation to the victim’s location.

The provision is applicable whether the offender was convicted or sentenced before or after the commencement of the section.

Ultimately, where an offender is sentenced to imprisonment for more than 3 years and the court imposes a non-parole period, there is no right to be automatically released at the expiration of this period, as outlined in Division 2 of the Act.

Once the non-parole period expires, they become eligible for release on parole, and whether they are released is up to the discretion of the Parole Authority.

Generally, the Parole Authority must not make a parole order directing the release of an offender unless it is satisfied that it is in the interests of the safety of the community.

Offenders do not ‘apply for parole’ but rather the Parole Authority will be required to consider an offender’s parole at a specifically designated time.

Published on 08/04/2024

AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

View all posts by Poppy Morandin