Uncertainties in Steve Johnson’s case are excruciating

Uncertainties in Steve Johnson’s case are excruciating

The uncertainty created by a man who admitted to his murder is excruciating for Scott Phillip White, who entered a guilty plea in the NSW Supreme Court during a pre-trial hearing in January, after being charged in 2020 and denying responsibility for Johnson's death.

It was a significant development in a decades-old Sydney mystery after Mr Johnson, then 27, was found at the base of cliffs in Manly in 1988.

White, 51, has begun appealing his conviction after his lawyers unsuccessfully tried to dismantle the plea by calling into question its integrity, citing cognitive impairment, his failure to inform them prior and his state of extreme agitation on the day he made it.

Justice Helen Wilson yesterday dismissed an application to halt sentence proceedings, due to take place early next month, and said delaying the matter would be bordering on the unconscionable In an affidavit to the court, the detective chief Inspector Peter Yeomans, described the considerable emotional courage of Mr Johnson's siblings as they prepare to face White in court.

He said Rebecca Johnson expressed concerns as she compiled a victim impact statement.

Ms Johnson said, "I feel like I am living in the loss and trauma every hour."

The idea that we will be preparing to go and have this ending and knowing that the sentencing hearing may not happen, is excruciating. It would add to the heightened trauma they are already enduring, as well as a significant financial cost. The family has been fighting for justice for their brother for more than 33 years, according to detective Yeomans.

He said Steve Johnson was instrumental in having the matter reinvestigated, including two coronial inquests, after it was initially ruled by police to be a suicide.

The family always maintained that Johnson was the victim of a gay hate crime.

The judge said yesterday that if the guilty plea is overturned, the sentence proceedings would be futile, as White maintains his innocence with his defence barrister describing the situation of sending a person in such a position as unusual. Justice Wilson noted that a Crown submission that delaying it until after the appeal would mean a wait of literally years.