What obstructs justice for the wrongfully convicted?
A NSW innocence project, or a Criminal Cases Review Commission such as in the UK, is needed to assist those who claim they have been wrongfully convicted according to leading investigative journalist and lawyer Wendy Bacon.
Associate Professor Bacon, who heads the journalism program in the UTS Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, discussed the obstacles to righting a wrongful conviction in her recent UTSpeaks public lecture The Stain of Guilt.
Among the cases discussed was that of Roseanne Catt, who spent ten years in prison for conspiracy to murder her husband and other offences, which were quashed in 2005.
Professor Bacon's reporting of the mishandling of the Catt case helped create the momentum for its re-examination.
She said the lessons are yet to be learned from such miscarriages of justice and others like the infamous Hilton bombing case in the late 1970s.
"Our current arrangements for reviewing cases are inadequate and the new DNA review panel is not the solution," Professor Bacon said.
"Its scope is too narrow, it has discretion to reject cases and its membership does not sufficiently represent likely applicants. There needs to be a community representative who has experience with people who have suffered injustice.
"While the interests of victims are extremely important, they cannot be allowed to obstruct a person whose guilt is questionable.
"I suggest that NSW needs a dedicated voluntary group of lawyers, law students, experts in all fields, and citizens who care about justice to assist those who claim they have been wrongly convicted.
"In regard to the Rosanne Catt case, there are many outstanding issues which point to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the 2004 Inquiry into the case, and these are yet to be addressed.
"There should be a judicial inquiry into that case of the kind that is currently occurring into the Mallard case in Western Australia," Professor Bacon said.
Terry Clinton (+61 2 9514 1623)