Glen Cash, QC said the less-publicised trials were the ones that stuck with him the most.  Picture: Peter Wallis
Glen Cash, QC said the less-publicised trials were the ones that stuck with him the most. Picture: Peter Wallis

The strangest thing about a murder trial

DESPITE convicting some of Queensland's most high-profile murderers during the past two decades, the Sunshine Coast's newest judge has never been one to hog the limelight.

In fact, veteran crown prosecutor Glen Cash QC says the best career advice he was ever given was to blend in.

"Just go about doing your job and don't draw attention to yourself, effectively try not to be noticed, and that's what I've always tried to do," he said.

"Just do what you have to do and don't go around waving your arms in the air and wanting everyone to look at you, and it will all work out."

Video of Daniel Morcombe murder confession to undercover cops - Excerpts: Brett Peter Cowan confession to undercover police
Video of Daniel Morcombe murder confession to undercover cops - Excerpts: Brett Peter Cowan confession to undercover police

Speaking exclusively to News Queensland, Cash, 46, who took on his new role as a judicial officer this month, told of his long career as a prosecutor, the nerves every time a jury returns to court with a verdict, and the welcome appointment as a judge on the Maroochydore District Court bench.

Cash grew up in Ipswich to a teacher's aide mother and a father who worked for many years as a taxi driver and at Centrelink.

One of seven siblings, he was the only child to attend university and has worked for the Director of Public Prosecutions since 1992.

"It's a bit embarrassing, isn't it?" Cash said, of having only ever worked at the DPP during his long legal career.

"I started with a dual degree, which was law and modern Asian studies. I was studying Japanese with the plan to go on and do commercial work at that point, but after a couple of years of being a poor student, I saw an advertisement for the DPP and gave that away.

"I've done a million different things there but I've probably worked in that building longer than I've been anywhere else."

The QC has been involved in some of the state's most publicised criminal cases, including the murder trial of Daniel Morcombe's killer, Brett Peter Cowan; Logan woman Joan Ryther's killer, Andrew Michael Burke; and Gable Tostee, who was acquitted of the death of Warriena Wright.

Gable Tostee was found not guilty of the murder of Warriena “Rrie” Tagpuno Wright, who fell from his 14th-floor apartment.
Gable Tostee was found not guilty of the murder of Warriena “Rrie” Tagpuno Wright, who fell from his 14th-floor apartment.

He also ran the trial that convicted Steven Fennell of the murder of Liselotte Watson, 85, on Macleay Island in 2012.

Despite his experience, Cash said the less-publicised trials were the ones that stuck with him the most.

"Looking back, probably the most significant for me wasn't the ones that got any kind of coverage," he said.

 

Court drawing of Steven Fennell, who was convicted of the murder of Liselotte Watson. Artwork by Jonathan Bentley
Court drawing of Steven Fennell, who was convicted of the murder of Liselotte Watson. Artwork by Jonathan Bentley

 

"There was a trial that I did fairly early on and it was a (charge of) grievous bodily harm (that had been committed) against a six-month-old infant.

"For a whole variety of reasons, it was just a really difficult trial - the nature of the allegations, the evidence was complicated and it was not an overwhelming case.

"It sharpened me to the extent that it made me think: 'This is what I want to keep doing'."

Even after almost three decades, he never got over his nerves every time a jury was about to deliver their verdict.

"The strangest thing about a murder trial is that if someone is convicted of murder, things happen really, really quickly," he said.

"It can be over in 15 minutes and before you even have a chance to take a breath and realise the gravity of what has occurred, the sentence is imposed and they've got life imprisonment and you're outside court going: 'What just happened?' So it's those moments, they're always kind of surreal."

The father-of-two is looking forward to his new role.

"I'm excited about it. Of course, there is trepidation of the unknown and that transition from suggesting what someone should be sentenced to, to being the one that has to do it … but it's a healthy combination of excitement and fear."