Countdown to Wrongful Conviction Day: Friday, October 2, 2105; 7 days. For information: http://www.aidwyc.org/wcd-2015/
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Andrew Urban presents an apt comparison between Dr. Colin Manock and former doctor Charles Smith - both of whom are at the heart of their country's "greatest forensic disasters." Smith looked, and played the role, of the confident, sophisticated, supremely knowledgeable forensic pathologist, when he was nothing of the sort. He played the role so well that defence lawyers rarely dared to challenge his qualifications as an expert witness in the criminal trials - and judges treated him with velvet gloves. Pretending to be neutral (he was anything but) he had jurors eating out of the palms of his hands. He cultivated such a powerful reputation that innocent, loving parents whose children had tragically died natural deaths, where told by their lawyers that if they did not plead guilty to a lesser offence they risked being sent to prison for life as their child's murderer. A haughty, arrogant individual, he would routinely castigate any pathologist who dared disagree with his opinion. (He also tended to "lose" forensic exhibits which could show that his opinion was wrong and that the accused parent or care giver was innocent). In short, Smith, a medical nobody, created himself into the great Dr. Charles Randal Smith, with the help of his superiors in the hospital, coroner's and policing and government establishments who chose not to look too closely while he was piling up victories in court - and with the help of an adoring, largely uncritical press which bought into his image as a passionately religious man who was the saintly protector of children who couldn't speak for themselves. I will leave the rest of my comments to Justice Stephen Goudge who addressed the issue of Smith's "experience" in his report for the public inquiry he conducted into many of Smith's cases: "As director of the OPFPU (The Ontario Pediatric Forensic Pathology Unit) and with the active support of the OCCO (The Ontario Chief Coroner's Office) Dr. Smith became the dominant pathologist for child abuse and homicide cases in Ontario. He brought with him an impressive title and a growing reputation and, relatively quickly, came to be perceived as the authority in pediatric forensic pathology. Dr. Smith also presented himself in this way. When he testified in September, 1994, in Valin's case, for instance, Dr. Smith told the court that, as director of the OPFPU, a "unique" unit in Canada and indeed in North America, he probably performed more pediatric forensic autopsies than anyone else in the country. In April, 1998, he told the court in Sharon's case that, given his vast experience with pediatric cases, he was more qualified to assess a child's penetrating wounds than a forensically trained pathologist, whose primary experience would have been with adults. We now know as Dr. Smith admitted, that he was self-taught and his forensic pathology education and training were 'minimal' and "woefully inadequate." He simply did not have the specialized professional skills necessary for the work."
STORY: "Australia's greatest forensic disaster," by Andrew L. Urban, posted on his blog 'Pursue Democracy' on September 25, 2015.
GIST: "The chronic, long term failure of the South Australian legal system to ensure that its chief forensic pathologist was suitably qualified to give evidence was a ticking time bomb that is now about to explode, with some 400 criminal cases needing to be re-opened, the largest volume of potential wrongful convictions in a single jurisdiction in history. The Chief Forensic Pathologist in South Australia, Dr Colin Manock, was at all relevant times “unprofessional, incompetent, untrustworthy” according to documents lodged with the Supreme Court of South Australia. Dr Manock gave ‘expert’ evidence in some 400 criminal trials over his 26 year tenure, resulting in convictions which are now all deemed unsafe and require to be re-opened. This is an unprecedented volume of potential miscarriages of justice for any jurisdiction let alone a sparsely populated state such as South Australia, says legal academic Dr Bob Moles, whose latest book (co-authored with Bibi Sangha), Miscarriages of Justice: Criminal Appeals and the Rule of Law in Australia (LexisNexis) has just been published (September 2015), with a foreword by retired Supreme Court Judge Michael Kirby. In the book, they argue that Australia’s existing appeals system does not comply with the rule of law provisions – nor with Australia’s international human rights obligations. It was Sangha and Dr Moles whose expertise helped introduce new statutory right of appeal legislation in South Australia in May 2013. It was the first substantial change to the criminal appeal rights anywhere in Australia in 100 years. It is under this new legislation that Frits Van Beelen has moved to have his conviction overturned, 25 years after being freed from a 17-year jail term for killing teenager Deborah Leach on Taperoo Beach on July 15, 1971. His legal team will assert Dr Manock was not qualified to give evidence at the trial, claiming that this is the “fresh and compelling” evidence needed to secure the appeal. Court of Criminal Appeal documents, lodged on September 9, 2015 by Michael Hegarty & Associates Solicitors, assert Dr Manock should not have been permitted to give evidence which was crucial to the prosecution case against Van Beelen, now in his late 60s. “The opinion Dr Manock provided as to time of death, clearly accepted by the jury, was wrong. At trial it was the prosecution case, based on Dr Manock’s autopsy observations and his opinions, that the Applicant committed necrophilia on the body of the deceased immediately after killing her. That proposition was without factual or valid scientific basis …”... In a submission to the Solicitor General concerning Dr Manock, the lawyers for Keogh had stated: “…there is no documentary proof of Dr Manock’s clinical qualifications and expertise. It is clear that in at least his first two years of practice in South Australia, he had no formal qualifications as a forensic pathologist. So far as we are aware he did not make that fact clear in the various cases in which he gave evidence during that period. His experience in the UK before he was appointed to the position as a forensic pathologist in South Australia is at best uncertain. Various anomalies exist, including his claim as to his appointments at Leeds University, which do not accord with the records we have been able to obtain from Leeds. “Despite our frequent requests, the Medical Board has consistently refused to check his qualifications...“It is acknowledged that Dr Manock had no formal training in histology (an essential requirement for forensic pathology) and more importantly, he consistently refused to rectify the problem …”Dr Manock is now retired. It’s up to South Australia’s legal system to deal with the hundreds of cases that recorded his unreliable testimony and to answer the question of how the entire system let so many doubts about his competence go unresolved for so long. What confidence can the public have in such a system? What safeguards are being put in place to prevent it happening again? Ontario, Canada had a similar situation that made headlines in 2011 with discredited pathologist Dr Charles Smith. Dr. Smith was considered a leading expert on pediatric forensic pathology from the 1980s to 2001. But he was found later to have made errors in 20 investigations, the majority of which led to criminal charges against parents or other caregivers. In most cases, they have since been cleared of wrongdoing."
The entire story can be found at:http://pursuedemocracy.com/2015/09/australias-greatest-forensic-disaster/