Australia’s record is shameful when it comes to miscarriages of justice. Indeed, you just have to look at Chamberlain, Keogh, Splatt, Wood, Mallard and Button to see how our criminal justice system can get it so wrong and how, once a wrong is done, it is almost impossible to unpick.
No wonder I continue to hold serious concerns about the Tasmanian case of Sue Neill-Fraser, including regarding the conduct of police and forensics. In this case, there are clear doubts about her conviction, including false and misleading evidence about blood, minimised DNA, various non-disclosures, and lost and missing key exhibits.
In another disturbing example, the Sofronoff inquiry in Queensland exposed maladministration, inappropriate thresholds preventing the testing of DNA, and a failure of standards and accreditation requirements. And then there is channel 9’s investigation, which exposed forensic issues in Keogh’s case, which is also alarming.
All states and territories must review their DNA processes, appropriately resource forensic labs and make a serious commitment to provide independent and impartial forensic services. In Tasmania in particular, the forensic services must be taken out of the police department and have its DNA and other processes reviewed— in other words, made independent. Moreover, there is an important role for the Federal Government to establish a National Criminal Case Review Commission, as has been done overseas, where countless convictions are found to be unsafe and overturned.