CLA, in one of its traditional Australia Day letters, has called in 2023 on Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to secure agreement of all other AGs for a major review of forensic science in Australia, and for a national Forensic Science Regulator/Authority. The December 2022 findings of the Sofronoff inquiry in Queensland dramatically highlighted the extent of the problems, which have caused wrongful convictions in cases like Fara Jama in Victoria, Mallard in WA, Keogh in SA and Eastman in the ACT, among many others.
Increasingly, in criminal trials throughout Australia, the failure to disclose (FTD) critical information to the defence appears to be skewing trials towards wrongful conviction outcomes. The problem is not new – the cases of Mallard, Keogh and Eastman over two decades demonstrate that fact – but what was an occasional blight seems to be becoming a plague of considerable proportions. Here’s the story, plus a special report on the Rules of Disclosure by legal academic Dr Bob Moles.
Recent revelations of secret recordings of lawyers and their clients at Risdon Prison by Tasmanian Police over two months raised major alarm bells. The Commonwealth Ombudsman has been consistently calling out TasPol for its recording devices and surveillance warrant failures for years. TasPol's “compliance culture” is lacking, the Ombudsman says. In other words, TasPol does not obey the law. SPECIAL ANALYSIS reveals how extensive the TasPol problem is: nothing less than a full inquiry into TasPol will get to the root causes of its problems.
Police can self-authorise some warrants, or get a magistrate or judge to issue others. But whatever method is mandated, warrants are frequently incorrectly issued in Australia on false, dodgy or incomplete information containing wrong details and not meeting legal requirements, or by unauthorised people. The Commonwealth monitors warrant processes, and its Ombudsman has singled out one state in particular, Tasmania, for compliance and culture criticism over the past few years
Election in the offing: law ’n order pollies get desperate. Both major parties want new ‘frighten the citizens laws’, reducing people’s rights, increasing secret surveillance, giving police yet more powers. Pollies pretend the ill-thought-through laws will reduce crime. More likely crime will increase. Stand by for other ghastly laws from the skeleton hands of Premier Perrottet and Pals of the NSW parliamentary ghost train, where scare the punters trumps care for the citizens.
A worldwide problem – police not accepting responsibility for incompetence in evidence gathering and prosecutions, poor leadership, and an inability to change with the times, particularly in relation to domestic violence – is evidenced by the resignation letter of London Met Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick. Australian police chiefs too should be held to account for what happens, or the change that doesn’t happen, in their forces.
Forensic science throughout Australia has caused massive miscarriages of justice. There’s Mallard in WA, Farah Jama in Victoria, Gordon Wood and claimed spearchucking a body at The Gap in NSW, Lindy Chamberlain, the Dingo and sound-deadening material in the NT…and, CLA believes, the Sue Neill-Fraser ‘Yacht No Body’ case in Tasmania. But still forensic scientists appear to be super-resistant to critiques of their opinions aimed at improving legal certainty. Here’s a report of an ongoing dispute, being played out in the global scientific media…at the instigation of an Australian polymath stargazer whose base is the foot of a telescope in the Canary Islands, south-west of Casablanca.
Police Minister’s so-called ‘ring of steel’ is actually giant privacy-invading mechanism, with no public, police or political-legislative safeguards, CLA VP Rajan Venkataraman says. It’s typical of a repressive approach to governing in a state which has no human rights charter to provide a modest baseline against which to measure surveillance intrusion into citizens’ lives.
Wrongful convictions expert Prof Dr Bob Moles has written to Members of the Tasmanian Parliament explaining why they should intervene to ensure justice for Sue Neill-Fraser, the woman convicted – in error, CLA and many liberties, rights and legal experts believe – for killing her husband Bob Chappell, on Australia Day 2009 on board a yacht moored in Sandy Bay, Hobart. The Yacht-No-Body case has riven Tasmania in two, with the state’s Establishment figures and systems fiercely resisting to acknowledge massive errors in the original trial which saw her jailed more than 12 years ago. Read What the Court Got Wrong, and How To Fix the Mess, by Dr Moles and his wife and co-author, Prof Bibi Sangha.