Viewing entries posted in November 2012
Last week I attended the Coroners' Conference in Sydney. It was an excellent event with a wide range of speakers, as well as a lively hypothetical and a debate on whether in a 21st Century civilised society the autopsy is an anachronism. I certainly hope to attend next year's conference, which I understand is in the Northern Territory. Topics of great interest at last week's event included a presentation by the WA and NSW Coroners on the Christmas Island boating tragedy and the deaths of asylum seekers in Villawood detention centre, a presentation by Uni of NSW academics on human memory and eye-witness identification and an interesting panel on forensic psychiatry and drug-related issues such as dangerous polypharmacy or multiple prescribing of drugs in such persons (the old Pharmacy degree was kicking in!). The conference was also addressed by former High Court Judge, the Hon. Mary Gaudron, who was the first woman appointed to the High Court. I also had the opportunity to put a question to Gaudron J about the need for a Criminal Cases Review Commission in Australia and the troubling inability of the High Court to receive new and fresh evidence in criminal matters.
This week, I will be attending, and presenting at, the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology (ANZSOC) Conference in Auckland, New Zealand. A copy of the program can be found at http://www.anzsoc2012.org/wp-content/uploads/Preliminary-Conference-Programme-121121-FINAL.pdf. I am presenting a paper on Miscarriage of Justice cases in the context of the conference theme of Crime, Power and Marginalisation. There are a number of Tasmanians, including academics and politicians, also contributing to the conference. see powerpoint here see formal paper here
An article in The Weekend Australian 24-25 November 2012 (p.8) outlines that two NSW Police officers involved in the fatal incident involving the use of a Taser on Brazilian Roberto Laudisio Curti in March 2012 had also been involved in stunning another man just hours earlier. During the related incident, police tasered Marcello Jimenez, who allegedly sustained "significant injuries" from elbows and punches to his face, neck and chest during his arrest and transportation to Surry Hills police station. The Magistrate in this related incident criticised the two police officers for using "very poor judgment" in their decision to use the Taser on Mr Jimenez, who was cleared of four charges arising from his arrest. The two dropped charges, resisting arrest and assaulting police, hinged on whether the use of the Taser had been warranted. The court heard that the police officers had not identified themselves before shooting the man in the back. The man pleaded guilty to a single count of affray. It is understood from related TV news coverage that the matter is being investigated, along with the Curti incident, by the NSW Police Integrity Commission (PIC).
Just before the expiry of the 21 day period in which an appeal can be lodged, the Crown has appealed against the decision of Brian Martin J in the high profile Rayney case in WA. The legal community in that state is said to be shocked at the appeal lodgement. See http://www.news.com.au/national/deadline-looms-for-lloyd-rayney-acquittal-appeal/story-fndo4e3y-1226521400906. In related media coverage, the Crown is alleging that the Judge essentially failed to "join the dots" in the case. One of the grounds of appeal is that the trial judge erred in law in failing to apply the principles enunciated in R v Hillier (2007) 228 CLR 618 in relation to the assessment of circumstantial evidence in that his Honour assessed the circumstances in a piecemeal and sequential manner and failed to consider the circumstances as a whole.
I have previously written about the conviction of Keli Lane for the murder of her baby daughter Tegan. Just recently, the Judge who presided over Lane's trial, Anthony Whealy J, has expressed doubts about the conviction. See http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/2012/11/24/09/37/keli-lane-judge-expresses-doubts-over-conviction. Once again, this is a highly circumstantial case with no body, no cause of death, no time of death, no eyewitnesses etc. The matter is coming up for appeal, which makes the Judge's comments even more interesting.
Colleen Egan, a Walkely award-winning journalist who was instrumental in establishing Andrew Mallard's innocence, wrote a balanced and persuasive article over the weekend about the Rayney case. See http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/15409800/pressure-to-find-rayney-answers/. Not only is Colleen pushing for a review into the aspects of misconduct and corruption exposed in the Rayney case, she is also urging for further investigation into the matter to find the true murderer or murderers. I also hear on the grapevine that there will be more on the Johnny Montani matter on Channel 9 tonight. The Montani matter is yet another high profile failed prosecution where it appears that WA Police have a number of issues to explain.
Have been very busy the last couple of days with the Advocacy Convention here in Hobart. Have been up since 4 am this morning preparing my opening statement as well as evidence in chief and cross examination of witnesses for the full trials that will be held today. Came across a very apt quote in Expert Witnesses by Freckelton and Selby (Lawbook Co. 2009):
The NSW Coroner has found that the police officers involved in the multiple tasering and death of Mr Curti engaged in reckless, dangerous, "thuggish" and "out of control" behaviour. See http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/taser-officers-were-thuggish-nsw-coroner-20121114-29b4p.html. The Coroner stated that it appeared officers, many of them inexperienced, had been swept up in "an ungoverned pack mentality, like schoolboys in the Lord of the Flies". The Coroner has referred the officers to the Police Integrity Commission and recommended a review of Taser use and training. She was highly critical of evidence given by police officers during the inquest. She referred to the evidence of one officer, a Sergeant at the time but now an Inspector, as "self-contradictory, self-serving and obscure". She added that his attempt to blame more junior officers after the event was "little short of contemptible". Whilst the Coroner has recommended disciplinary charges, the family would like to see the relevant officers face criminal charges. The Coroner said an autopsy found no specific cause of death and she could only conclude Mr Curti died of undetermined causes in the course of being restrained by police officers. The case, and related matters, demonstrate that there is an urgent need for a national inquiry into taser use by police.
The Australian for Tuesday 13 November 2012 included a number of interesting items:
The NSW Coroner is due to hand down her decision today into the death of Brazilian student, Roberto Curti, who died after he was chased by police, handcuffed and tasered multiple times. Curti seemingly stole two packets of biscuits, whilst apparently under the influence of drugs.