What Drives Me

Posted by Barbara Etter on 20 January 2013 | 2 Comments

Someone asked me the other day what it was that drove me to spend such an inordinate amount of time and energy on Miscarriage of Justice cases. It caused me to reflect long and hard about why I feel the way I do about such matters and why I feel compelled to probe, challenge and pursue every lead, no matter how minor.

I think I have always had an extremely strong sense of not only what is right but the need to do the right thing. Those that know me, know that I frequently espouse the importance of "moral courage". My personal values and the things that motivate me to action must go back to my early childhood, great parents as role models and a good Catholic education, both primary and secondary.

Of course my career has involved 30 years of policing in NSW, NT, WA and SA and has included working at the national level as a Director of the then Australasian Centre for Policing Research in Adelaide and the Chair of the Board of Studies of the Australian Institute of Police Management, based in Sydney. I also had a more recent stint as the inaugural CEO of the Tasmanian Integrity Commission. I have had a unique and multi-jurisdictional insight into both policing and integrity within the public sector. My three and half years as the Assistant Commissioner of Corruption Prevention and Investigation for the WA Police certainly influenced my views on the potential for miscarriages of justice, particularly when I saw the Andrew Mallard case unravel dramatically, first-hand.

I loved most of my time within policing - it certainly had its challenges. I fully appreciate how fundamentally important policing is to the proper functioning of the entire criminal justice system. In fact, police are the respected, trusted and powerful gatekeepers. Alas, if they get it wrong, irreparable damage and harm can occur, as history has shown. Policing has come a long way in the last 20 to 30 years but there are still issues with its structure, culture and leadership model. These factors can on occasions lead to "over-zealous" policing and even "noble cause corruption". There are many within policing who are working hard to professionalise the occupation of policing and to ensure the very highest of professional and ethical standards. But policing and its leaders must also be willing to recognise mistakes, call those responsible to account in a timely way, introduce necessary reforms and work with others to redress any miscarriage of justice.

Now that I am on the "outside" of policing, I am experiencing strong resistance and a reluctance from policing to redress a wrong, in more than one matter.

I recently obtained my legal practising certificate here in Tasmania and commenced my own legal practice, BEtter Consulting. As a lawyer, I now have an additional ethical framework within which to function. It is a complex matrix or maze which I must traverse. However, I keep reminding myself that my overriding or paramount duty as a lawyer is to the court. If I believe that there has been a miscarriage of justice, it is incumbent upon me to do my best to bring the matter back before the courts so that any mistake can be rectified. In doing so, it is important to be prepared to "rock the boat", be persistent and undeterred by opposition, and to accept that you may well alienate fellow professionals.

Only time will tell whether my determination and doggedness will bring results and much needed reform.



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  • It was inspiring to read your story and your strength. As you said all have their parents as role models. They teach us many important truths through their life. Lucky are those who can be with their parents till the end of life.

    Posted by dmwebsolution, 04/07/2016 8:37pm (2 years ago)

  • was at screening in Hobart tonight. Am new to Tasmania and felt devastated by what was shown and the discussion that followed. Was so moved by the force of your words and the strength of your resolve. Hope to be able to support the team. Just give a direction.

    Posted by peter fay, 30/06/2014 10:01pm (4 years ago)

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