By Bill Rowlings, CEO of Civil Liberties Australia
The State of SA is being urged to ‘come clean’ to the High Court of Australia and formally admit that the work of its chief forensic pathologist was “completely unreliable, in fact manifestly so.’
The ultimate aim is to set free a prisoner who has served 38 years in jail…wrongly.
The quotes in italics are those of the current Attorney-General of SA, Vickie Chapman, on 2 July 2018 in an ABC Drive interview on Radio Adelaide.
Yet to date the State of SA has failed to disclose legally that its Forensic Science Centre, police and prosecutors knew the state’s long-time chief pathologist, Dr Colin Manock, was both unqualified and incompetent.
In his 27 years in the role from 1968 to 1995, the unqualified Manock conducted 10,000 autopsies and his unsound and unreliable evidence helped convict 400 people for criminal offences, including murder.
One of them, Derek Bromley, has a fresh appeal now before the High Court of Australia. Bromley has been in prison for 38 years – about a decade and a half beyond his possible parole date – because he refuses to admit he is guilty.
So far, the state of SA has not told the High Court, as it is legally obliged to do, of the unqualified, “manifest unreliability” over three decades of its chief pathologist.
The problems with Manock and his formal tenure have been exposed in High Court cases and before legal and medical boards. But still the state of SA will not legally admit its own failings.
If it did, Bromley should walk out of prison tomorrow, acquitted.
As law academic and wrongful conviction campaigner, Dr Bob Moles reminds the government in a letter sent to the SA AG on 4 January 2022:
…the securing (or maintaining) of a conviction based upon evidence which is known to be false and misleading constitutes ‘an unspeakable outrage’, ‘an extremely grave criminal offence’ and ‘a species of criminality at the extreme end of the spectrum of official corruption’.
Dr Moles directly informs AG Chapman that:
“…the duty which lies upon the Attorney-General as the senior law officer in the state (is) to maintain the integrity of the legal process and to uphold the rule of law.
“I am sure you will be aware that in the US over the last 20 years they have identified over 2,600 wrongful conviction cases. In Canada there have been over 30 such cases and in the UK there have been over 460.
“In none of those cases has there been a situation in which a senior forensic pathologist has been instructed to continue to conduct autopsies and give evidence in criminal proceedings concerning them after the state had publicly declared in sworn evidence that he was unqualified to undertake either of those tasks,” Dr Moles wrote.
“If the High Court overturns (the Bromley) conviction, it would be the first time in the legal history of Australia, Britain and Canada, that a wrongly-convicted person has served such a lengthy sentence prior to the conviction being overturned.
“It is clear that throughout that time the state knew that the conviction had been obtained through evidence which was false and misleading insofar as the status of the chief Crown witness was concerned.”
After 19 years wrongly imprisoned on false Manock evidence, Henry Keogh was freed in 2014 and received $2.5m compensation from SA. David Eastman was awarded $7.2m in 2019 in the ACT for his wrongful conviction after also spending 19 years in jail.
When Bromley is freed – as he must be if the rule of law is to be upheld in the state of SA and by the High Court of Australia – his compensation is likely to set a new Australian record for such cases of more than $10m.
What price would you put on denial of your freedom for 38 years?
CLA in 2016 calls for Royal Commission in SA over Manock and Keogh/etc cases:
Further background on Manock: