The retiring WA Coroner, Mr Alastair Hope, has come out in the latest annual report calling for changes to the law to address situations where police officers leak or display confidential coronial information. See http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/state-coroner-alastair-hope-calls-for-new-laws-for-wa-police-officers-who-share-private-information/story-fnhocxo3-1226772068417#. I tend to agree with the comments of WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan in that there is already mechanisms to deal with such misconduct. However, following the recent incident with Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles in Victoria last week, concerning a half-naked photo of rape/murder victim Jill Meagher, it may be necessary to reinforce the need for absolute confidentiality in such matters. But I do believe that more than legislation or threats to enforce such legislation is required. After my 30 years in policing, I feel that a degree of unavoidable desensitisation occurs where police, including well-intentioned and honourable police officers, fail to realise the sensitivity of some material and its potential impact on families and ordinary members of the public. I think ongoing training and guidance is required to remind police about how organisational culture can affect their decision-making and judgment on occasions. Clear policies on what is permitted by way of public presentations should also be put in place by the organisation.
Disturbing news out of the US where it seems that a corrupt government crime lab chemist in Massachusetts may have tampered with up to 40,000 cases, locking countless innocent Americans in prison. See http://filmingcops.com/corrupt-government-chemist-tampered-with-40000-cases-locking-countless-innocent-americans-in-prison/.
Associate Professor of Evidence and Proof at Sydney University David Hamer and Professor of Law Gary Edmond from the University of NSW are the latest eminent legal minds to raise issues with the Sue Neill-Fraser murder conviction here in Tasmania. See http://theconversation.com/truth-or-lies-overturning-wrongful-convictions-20430
Dr Bob Moles and Ms Bibi Sangha have produced a very useful detailed summary of the NSW Court of Appeal findings in the high profile Gordon Wood case, where Gordon was acquitted in February 2012. See http://netk.net.au/Wood/Wood4.pdf. The case is extremely valuable from a number of perspectives including the issue of expert evidence and speculation on the part of prosecutors.
Please see this short film of the comments made by Chester Porter QC, Counsel Assisting in the Morling Inquiry into the Chamberlain convictions, and Mr Stuart Tipple, lawyer for Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, in relation to the Sue Neill-Fraser case in Tasmania.
The Justice Hammond Speech on The New Miscarriages of Justice - The Need for Moral Integrity in our Criminal Justice System
I refer to my blog posting of Saturday 23 November 2013 in relation to this speech and provide the following summary/analysis of the Harkness Henry Lecture given by the Hon. Justice Grant Hammond at the University of Waikato in 2006.
Yet another wrongfully convicted person has walked free in the US after having spent 25 years in gaol. Derrick Deacon, a Brooklyn man, was released last Monday from prison after having been convicted in 1989 of killing a 16 year old male in the middle of a robbery in Brooklyn. He was given a new trial after an FBI "cooperator" said another man was the killer. A separate witness also recanted her testimony. The jury in the new trial deliberated for a whole nine minutes before returning with a not guilty verdict.
Mr Stuart Tipple, the highly respected lawyer who stood by Lindy Chamberlain for over 30 years, said this from the stage after the VIP screening of Shadow of Doubt in Sydney on 5 November 2013:
How could this happen in Australia? When I read the brief details on PerthNow, I thought that it was going to be about a third world country. See http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/shocking-video-shows-gong-ling-tang-left-to-die-outside-police-station/story-e6frg12c-1226766008155#. Watch the shocking footage released by the Coroner in the public interest.
I found an excellent speech by Hon. Justice Grant Hammond on the Internet. Hammond J is now the President of the NZ Law Commission. I was very impressed with his observations on the issue of miscarriages of justice, given his then role as a Judge of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand. His Honour provides a fresh and honest approach to the issue and acknowledges that mistakes are sometimes made. He commences his article with the following quote: