Melbourne’s leading criminal QC Robert Richter and Gold Coast celebrity solicitor and novelist Chris Nyst will be conducting a post mortem of the colourful two-week trial which climaxed this morning with the jailing of their two clients.

Jade Lacey, 26, was sentenced to five years’ jail for unlawful wounding of Kevin Palmer. His younger brother, Dionne Lacey, 22, was given 10 years for manslaughter.

In the Queensland Supreme Court Justice Glenn Martin rejected the application by the Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne that Jade should receive a seven-year term and Dionne 13 years.

Both were charged over the shooting death of Kevin Palmer at a Nerang unit on the Gold Coast in May 2007.

The high-profile trial has focused attention of the Lacey brothers’ multi-millionaire parents, Ken and Madelaine Lacey, who moved to the Gold Coast after making a small fortune in the milk distribution industry and living in a $17 million mansion on Mermaid Beach.

Lacey built his city-wide milk distribution network by unorthodox marketing methods that made his product irresistible to retail outlets and corner groceries.

Lacey Snr was absent from the courtroom on the day his two sons were convicted because it was “freely mooted by lawyers at court that he was asked to stay away because of the tattoos on his neck which are difficult to disguise,” according to an editorial in the News Ltd-owned Gold Coast Bulletin last week.

The tattoo which sits above his shirt collar depicts a hand revolver and the words “revenge” and “respect”.

During the trial Richter argued that the Lacey boys had acted in self-defence when they shot Palmer and killed him. Jade Lacey, described as a “bad a-sed rapper”, told the court that carrying a gun was part of the teenage culture on the Gold Coast.

He said he even carried a gun when he had dinner with his grandmother. “I used to carry it just because I thought it was tough to carry a gun,” he said.

The trial was unusual because three key witnesses went missing and failed to testify.

The dead man’s father, Shane Palmer, said before the sentencing: “Three of his mates who said they were going to stick there, help us, and do the right thing, disappeared.

“Just like the Laceys, they’re also cowards.”

The Lacey investigation, the trial and the relatively benign sentencing have placed Queensland’s criminal justice system under a considerable strain. But somehow the only Brisbane daily newspaper, News Ltd’s Courier-Mail, has taken only passing interest in the unfolding drama.

Any newspaper that honours the time-honoured tradition of strong, independent and vigilant journalism would be demanding a thorough inquiry of the State’s drugs and guns culture and how the police are coping with catching and prosecuting those involved.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey