Category Archives: Australia/New Zealand

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Police lying: an endemic international problem?

It is starting to feel in the UK like ‘another day, another story of police lies’. In what feels like just a few months we have had media coverage of (to mention just a few) scandals where, for example, police have been caught falsifying reports of an altercation that they ‘witnessed’ when they were not present (see Plebgate scandal...). We have the ongoing revelations over police lies and their coercion of others to lie in the Hillsborough disaster cover-up (see Hillsborough inquiry...). It is suspected that these tactics were honed during the Miner’s Strike when striking miners were ‘fitted up’ (see Miners Strike….). Such tactics clearly have continued for years with many undercover police officers lies leading to convictions  (see undercover policing....) as well as the recent revelation that high profile victim Stephen Lawrence’s family were put under police surveillance during the inquiries into the police failures after Stephen’s murder (to try and discredit the family and their campaign for justice). This all comes on top of the almost run-of-the-mill stories of police ‘collusion’ with one another after fatal police shootings, with the introduction of body-worn cameras to enable the police to be ‘more transparent’ about fatal shootings. In fact, the introduction of police body-worn cameras has been posited as a boon for police as it will cut down on false allegations from the public. However, is it perhaps more likely that police body-worn cameras may serve to make the police more honest? Will they be able to lie with camera footage of the real altercation readily available?

0In Omagh, Northern Ireland, the introduction of CCTV cameras in the town has led to the uncovering of police lies leading to miscarriages of justice – with solicitors claiming that miscarriages may be ‘endemic’: increasingly, CCTC footage is being shown to demonstrate that the police account of events is unreliable – even untrue (see story here…) Of course this has not been a good week either for police south of the border in Ireland, having been found to have been illicitly tape recording phone calls made to police stations (see here…). The other side of the world, in New Zealand, they are calling police lies and false evidence which have led to convictions as ‘failings’ and ‘sloppy police work’ (see here…Police failures led to wrongful conviction).

We have all known for years that there are ‘rotten apples’ and that wrongful convictions have often had police misrepresentations, if not outright corruption and lying, at their heart. However, the question must surely now be asked: is lying among the police an endemic international problem? If so, what can be done about it? These questions are already beginning to be murmured in corners of the UK, I think it is now time to get such questions out in the open. These are challenging times for the police, and if we are not to lose trust in them completely, I believe some hard questions must be asked and answers demanded.


Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • The unintended consequences of compensating the exonerated
  • Canada’s system for reviewing alleged wrongful convictions “failing miserably”
  • West Virginia University Law Innocence Project pushes interrogation recording bill
  •  What does a record number of U.S. exonerations in 2013 tell us?
  • ESPN video on the wrongful accusation against Richard Jewel for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing
  • Ex-cop exonerated after 20 years in prison awarded $9 million
  • Mexican lawyers turned filmmakers win civil suit against them brought by family of victim in wrongful conviction case they exposed through the documentary Presumed Guilty
  • Planned changes in UK’s compensation laws for exonerees will make it nearly impossible to obtain compensation after wrongful conviction
  • New Zealand Innocence Project re-ignites debate about the need for a wrongful convictions commission
  • Idaho Innocence Project client Sarah Pearce may soon be released—settlement discussions ongoing

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More calls in New Zealand for independent justice review committee

In light of this week’s decision at the Privy Council to overturn the murder conviction of New Zealand citizen Mark Lundy (see earlier post here….), ongoing debate surrounding the need for an independent review commission, along the lines of the UK’s Criminal Cases Review Commissions, has again been sparked. An earlier post here…. detailed how New Zealand authorities have long been contemplating the creation of a post-appeal review body, but they have so far resisted calls. See an interesting news piece here…. untitled

Call for justice review committee for miscarriages

Privy Council in London overturn New Zealand murder conviction

The Privy Council, sitting in London, has heard an appeal from Mark Lundy, a New Zealand resident serving a 20 year life sentence for murdering his wife and daughter. Mark Lundy has already served over 12 years in prison for the murder that he has always maintained he did not commit. The court has overturned the conviction and instructed the authorities in New Zealand to give Mr Lundy a new trial as soon as possible. Mr Lundy turned to the Privy Council after losing all appeal avenues in New Zealand. His appeal turns upon new ‘credible’ expert evidence that casts serious doubt over the original evidence used at trial, of stomach contents analysis, in order to determine the time of death of the victims. Mr Lundy has always had an alibi for when he claims the murders must have taken place, but the stomach content analysis put the deaths at a time when he could have committed the murders. If this evidence is proved flawed, then the whole case is thrown into doubt.

Read more here:

Mark Lundy murder convictions quashed  

New Zealand businessman Mark Lundy wins appeal in UK court over conviction for murdering wife and daughter with tomahawk-like weapon

New Zealand judge: ‘Case for Independent body to investigate miscarriages of justice even stronger now’

untitledA retired New Zealand judge is arguing, 10 years after conducting an inquiry into miscarriages of justice in New Zealand, that the country is still in dire need of an independent body to investigate cases. This article outlines his conclusions then, and now, and the political concerns surrounding the establishment of such a body.

Read more here: A decade after he recommended New Zealand set up an independent commission to investigate claims of miscarriages of justice, Sir Thomas Thorp says the case is even stronger.

Law Review Issue on Wrongful Convictions Around the Globe Now in Print…


At long last, the University of Cincinnati Law Review symposium issue stemming from the 2011 International Innocence Conference in Cincinnati is finally in print.  The edition contains articles discussing and summarizing the causes and extent of wrongful conviction in countries across the globe.  You can find the entire volume here.  Congrats to all involved on completing this important work.

Australasia: New calls for criminal cases review body

New Zealand media are again focussing attention on the case of Teina Pora (read about his case here) , a man convicted 21 years ago of a rape and murder that he maintains he did not commit. Pora is now awaiting a pardon, having lost all his appeals and reached the end of the line. Many groups including politicians and police support his claims of innocence. However, the Premier of New Zealand (John Key) is rejecting calls for the government to set up an inquiry into the conviction. Instead, the case may (if refused a pardon) have to go to the Privy Council in London.


Read more here:  Key, Collins shy off action on Pora case

The case is attracting sufficient criticism that it is heightening calls for a criminal case review body specifically created to look at potential miscarriages of justice. Commentators are looking to renew previous calls in New Zealand to set up a review bodysimilar to the CCRC in the UK. With Pora’s case featuring so heavily in the news, the calls may get greater political and public support.  Read more here: Criminal conviction review system long overdue

Meanwhile, similar calls are being made just across the Tasman Seain Tasmania (a state of Australia). They too are demanding new appeal rights for those alleging a miscarriage of justice. Similar to many of the States in Australia, once you have your appeal in Tasmania, 


you cannot have a subsequent one, even if new evidence is produced. Civil Liberties Australia are now calling for greater appeal rights in Tasmania, a call that could similarly be made all across Australia. Read more here:  Calls mount for retrial ruling

Australia: Call for end of juries in new book: ‘Presumed Guilty’

A veteran reporter in Western Australia, Bret Christian, has written a new book entitled ‘Presumed Guilty’. In promoting the book, he has given an interesting radio interview where he calls for the abolition of juries. He claims that having covered many miscarriages of justice, this may prevent further occurring. You can listen to the interview here….   

More details on the book are available here:

Presumed Guilty

Bret Christian506782

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Pre-requisites for a safe criminal justice system II: Legal representation.

In addition to committing to spending on GOOD science (see my earlier post here… ), governments have a responsibility to provide free legal representation to those who cannot afford it. This responsibility however, is being increasingly shirked by many governments, who see legal aid (as it’s called in the UK) as a cost that can be cut. This is dangerous territory. One of the leading causes of miscarriages of justice is poor legal representation. In addition, if a defendant has NO, or very poor, legal representation, little can be done to challenge other defects in the criminal process and flawed evidence leading to wrongful convictions. In the UK, there are also major concerns that the lack of funding for lawyers will lead to many more legal professionals opting out of doing any criminal legal aid work, or doing so in such numbers (to make it worth their while financially) that they will merely be able to offer the most basic of services, with great temptation to get suspects to ‘plead’ early to avoid spending more time than necessary on making a defence. See some commentary on the cuts here…

Legal aid: Government consults on £220m savings plan.

Our justice system is being turned into Profit & Growth plc

Criminal legal aid bill to be cut by £220m


The cuts are combined with measures such as ‘Best Value Tendering’, where legal firms must submit the lowest bid in order to secure rights to defend suspects – an immediate attack on quality. In response, the government is trying to introduce ‘QASA’ – Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates. The introduction of this scheme has already led to unprecedented action among the legal profession and seems set to incite strike action soon. There are also suggestions being made that volunteer legal advice centres – including those set up in law schools, can pick up the work. Putting an incredible burden on these resource-poor and inexperienced individuals.

Similar plans to cut legal aid are moving ahead across Australia too:

Vulnerable hit by cuts to legal aid

imagesIn the UK in particular, legal aid is being cut from certain individuals altogether, with prisoners no longer eligible. Proper legal representation is not a luxury. It will not be long before any economic benefits at all are wiped out by the increased costs of failed trials and wrongful convictions.

International Recognition of Wrongful Convictions: A Growing Trend?

ImageWith recent posts on this blog detailing further great news from Europe on developing Innocence Projects (see here… on France, see here… on Belgium, here… on Netherlands), it certainly feels like the ambition of those in the US to spread the word of innocence internationally is proving fruitful. South Australia is celebrating (finally) getting a body to investigate miscarriages of justice – the first in Australia. There have been notorious miscarriages of justice in that State, and many others waiting to see the light of day. They may now have a chance – let’s hope it’s not too long before the other States and Territories follow suit:

A small step in legal reform, a giant leap for justice

Meanwhile, just in the last few weeks I have read the following news items from around the world – perhaps the media is starting to get with the programme?

In China, authorities have apologised ‘deeply’ for wrongly convicting 2 men of rape and murder (including a death sentence that was commuted). They have ordered inquiries into the investigation and conviction of the men. DNA testing led to another man who was executed in 2005 for another killing. Read here: 

Police apologizes to 2 men wrongly convicted

and: Zhejiang plans to probe men’s wrongful conviction.

There are hopes that the revelation of wrongful convictions – including the execution of innocence individuals – in China will lead to the cessation of the death penalty

Putting China on the Path to Ending Capital Punishment

In Israel, an interesting and detailed article looks at the re-opening of the notorious murder of a child at school (the Zadorov case). It re-caps on previous high-profile miscarriages of justice in Israel and their causes:

The Zadorov case

In New Zealand, calls are being made by political party leaders for a pardon in an infamous case where a 17 year old was questioned by police for five days without a lawyer. Teina Pora has spent 20 years in prison for murder – a murder where another man was convicted (on DNA evidence) of raping, but not killing, the victim. The case has always attracted accusations of racism in the treatment of Pora.

Māori Party wants mercy in Pora case

Mounting pressure for re-investigation of Pora case

One can only hope that the spread of media interest in, and political motivation to tackle wrongful convictions, continues.

New Understandings in Medical Science Lead to Exoneration in Australia…


The WA Court of Appeal today set aside the 30-year-old second degree murder conviction of Chris von Deutschburg, with this morning’s judgement saying a “miscarriage of justice occurred at the (1983) trial”.

The acquittal was heavily dependant on evidence from WA microbiology Professor Marshall, which was submitted in the appeal run by Malcolm McCusker QC, before he became WA Governor.

On June 1 1983, Mr von Deutschburg, then a homeless 18-year-old known as Christian Wilhelm Michael scuffled with an elderly man during a house robbery.

The man died of a bleeding duodenal ulcer seven days later, and the teen was then jailed for life with hard labour in December and served seven years before being paroled in 1990.

In the December 1983 Supreme Court trial, then state pathologist Donald Hainsworth insisted 86-year-old Stavros Kakulas’s condition was brought on by stress caused by the incident.

But in October 2005, The Sunday Times started investigating the case and interviewed Prof Marshall, who said he stood by an affidavit refuting the evidence that convicted Mr von Deutschburg which he he wrote in 1986 when Mr von Deutschburg had previously considered appealing.

“As a result of my own research and findings . . . I strongly believe that all statements to the effect that the ulcer which caused Mr Kakulas’s death was caused by stress are medically incorrect,” he said in the 1986 document.

A petition for clemency by law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques, settled by Mr McCusker, led to then WA attorney-general Christian Porter referring the case to the Court of Appeal in May 2012.

This was after Prof Marshall — who won the Nobel in 2005 with co-researcher Robin Warren for proving bacteria not stress caused most ulcers — emphatically told the State Solicitor’s Office the injuries did not cause the ulcer or its bleeding.

Prof Marshall wrote to the SSO in April 4, 2012, saying: “There is no likelihood that his (Mr Kakulas’s) injuries either worsened or contributed to the duodenal ulcer in question.”

In the Supreme Court this morning Justice Michael Buss said Mr von Deutschburg’s appeal had been allowed, there was a “judgement of acquittal” and that the “conviction for murder has been set aside”.

“The medical evidence before this court is incapable of proving beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant’s assault upon Mr Kakulas caused or materially contributed to his death,” the judgement said. “A miscarriage of justice occurred at the trial.”

Mr von Deutschburg, 48, who now lives in Victoria, said: “Today I welcome the Court of Appeal making a decision in this matter … in 1983 it took just three days to find me guilty, but some 30 years to finally accept my innocence.

“I served a life imprisonment with hard labour sentence, including years within Fremantle Prison, all based upon DPP trial evidence that simply never existed. This injustice spanning almost three decades has devastated my life.

“Thank you to Professor Marshall for his medical work of healing the sick, and saving the life of an innocent person persecuted by the State for some 30 years.

“Thank you to my current legal team Sam Vandongan SC and Legal Aid Natalie Sinton. Thank you to my previous legal team including now Governor Malcolm McCusker QC, Judith Fordham, and law firm Mallesons. Thank you to News Ltd journalist Paul Lampathakis who has been working tirelessly for the past some seven years.”

Mr von Deutschburg also thanked the foreman of the 1983 jury for support “all these decades and for visiting me while I was in Fremantle Prison, (and) RP and all those who have variously helped over these past 30 years.”

The former jury foreman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told PerthNow the decision was “a great weight off my shoulders” because he always knew Mr von Deutschburg was “wrongly convicted”.

He said the jury wanted questions about whether anti-inflammatory drugs had been given to Mr Kakulas, which potentially could have caused the ulcer to bleed, and whether there was a differing medical opinion on the cause of ulcers. But he said the jury was told it could only deal with the evidence at the trial and therefore was compelled to convict him.

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…