Promoting people's rights and civil liberties. It is non-party political and independent of other organisations.
Criminal case review is needed

Criminal case review is needed

Justice is blind…and sometimes makes a tragic mistake. For that reason, wrongful conviction findings in the UK have pointed to the clear need for a criminal case review mechanism where British justice rules. Brian Tennant backs calls for a review body in Australia.

Malcolm McCusker QC, speaking recently at Christ Church Grammar School in Claremont, Perth, advocated a Criminal Case Review Commission which has been successful in Britain since 1997.

The Criminal Case Review Commission has overturned convictions of some 300 cases out of 464 reviewed. Of those, around 50 were murder cases and 4 involved people hanged.

The review of cases is completely independent of Parliament, the Government, and the Crown, he explained. A CCRC subjects cases to a robust and thoroughly impartial review to consider whether there is new evidence or arguments that may cast doubt on the safety of the original position.

As it stands in Australia, more often the people in power who can, and are supposed to, put things right:

  • don’t want to know, or won’t talk to you;
  • simply won’t accept that a mistake may have been made; and
  • seem to lack the courage, compassion and perhaps the integrity to correct a wrong no matter how obvious it may be*. 

However, I believe that it should not be confined to cases which have exhausted all avenues of appeal. I am aware of one case where a QC told his client – after a judge and jury trial had convicted him – that he believed he was innocent; if he could obtain the services of a solicitor for an appeal, the barrister may be in a position to take on that appeal, possibly pro-bono. But in this particular case the sentence was over 10 years, and the convicted man couldn’t obtain legal aid or the services of the legal profession. Because he would not admit guilt, he served his full sentence.

The WA Attorney-General , Mr Porter, has already commented on Mr McCusker’s suggestion, but suggests it should be achieved nationally. I agree with the AG on that matter…AG Porter himself can put the matter on the agenda of a national meetings of SCAG, the Standing Committee of AGs.

However, in WA we have from time to time bipartisan Parliamentary select committees, set up to inquire into matter of police conduct and justice matters, and have been successful in recommending an apology and compensation in a number of these cases.

 * I don’t believe this applies to the WA Attorney General)

– Brian G Tennant, member of Civil Liberties Australia and Law Reform Campaigner

Leave a Reply

Translate »