Thursday, July 26, 2012

Australia: Parliamentary committee rejects criminal cases review commission - but backs new appeal rights and a forensic science review panel.

STORY: "New appeal rights and a Forensic Review Panel to expand existing rights to criminal appeals," as summarized by Dr. Robert N. Moles, who, with Bibi Sangha [senior lecturer Flinders Law School], is a joint author of Forensic Investigations and Miscarriages of Justice – the Rhetoric Meets the Reality (2010) Irwin Law Toronto, Federation Press Australia. (A superb book previously reviewed on this Blog. They have played a monumental role in the battle to obtain an independent criminal cases review process for Australia. (HL);

GIST: "A South Australian Parliamentary Committee has recommended the establishment of new criminal appeal rights, and new mechanisms to review flawed forensic evidence in criminal cases. The Legislative Review Committee of the South Australian Parliament has considered a proposed Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill. Whilst it does not recommend the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission it does make some other important recommendations.........The Committee noted that there were changing opinions about the reliability of science and the new technologies involved. It said there should be a new Forensic Science Review Panel for a person to have evidence tested where it might reveal new information which might cast a reasonable doubt about the guilt of a convicted person. It noted that the NSW DNA Panel can only look at convictions occurring after 2006 and to the testing of DNA evidence. It said that the new forensic review body in South Australia should not be subject to such limitations. It should include toxicology, pathology and the testing of other chemicals or materials. The new Forensic Review Panel should be comprised of two legal practitioners with not less than 10 years standing and one representative from each of victims rights, the forensic science centre, the DPP and police. Clearly there could be conflicts of interest if the forensic science, police and prosecution personnel are drawn from the same pool as those involved with the original convictions. However, given that the proposed Panel would not be a permanent body, “but meet regularly as required”, it would be appropriate to seek advice in those areas from people with appropriate standing from interstate. The Committee said that the panel could arrange for further forensic testing to be done. Most importantly, the Committee said that the Forensic Review Panel should be able to refer a case to the Court of Appeal for review of a conviction following upon the receipt of the forensic test results. It said that the Panel should have regard to the consequences for any registered victim of the offence to which the application relates. Quite what this means or how it should be accomplished for the purposes of a forensic review committee was not made clear, but the Committee was obviously concerned that victims rights should be respected throughout any such process. The Committee said that the Panel should have powers of investigation, including the power to obtain documents and samples from police and the courts, and the power to call its own experts. The Panel should then prepare a report and where appropriate refer the new material directly to the Court of Criminal Appeal. It should also have the power to make reports and recommendations to the Attorney-General regarding changes to legislation, policies and strategies as a result of their findings......... Not quite as broad as a Criminal Review Commission, but a clear policy and strategic initiative nonetheless."

The entire summary can be found at:


I am monitoring these issues. Keep your eye on The Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.