Is Australia fair dinkum about wrongful convictions?

Andrew L. Urban

Wrongful convictions in Australia are either a) uniquely infrequent or b) largely left undisturbed, according to a briefing paper by Flinders University legal academic Dr Bob Moles, examining the effect of the recently introduced new right of appeal laws. Is Australia fair dinkum about wrongful convictions? 

Australians are labouring under a misapprehension if they believe their criminal justice system hardly makes mistakes.

“If you take the number of wrongful convictions identified in the UK through the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) over the last 25 years – 535 cases, and then adjust for differences in population between UK and Australia – we should have picked up, say, 150-200 such cases. As it is, we have picked up barely a handful as the figures demonstrate.”

Referring to his paper, Dr Moles remarks: “The headline figures are that SA has had just 3 successful appeals in 8 years, Tasmania has had none in six years and Victoria has had 3 in 3 years.”

By comparison, the CCRC in the UK (popn 67 million) has referred cases to appeal courts which have overturned an average of 25 cases per year for the last 25 years. Australia (popn 25 million) is “clearly not working hard enough to own up to the wrongful convictions which have occurred there, “ adds Dr Moles.

imprisoned for 38 years 

South Australia first introduced the new right of appeal in 2013. In the eight years since then, there have been 3 successful appeals and 5 unsuccessful appeals. The successful cases include one in which the person had been imprisoned for over 20 years for a crime which never occurred. One of the unsuccessful appeals involves a man who has been imprisoned for over 38 years. He has eight of the countries’ leading experts to say the evidence at his trial was false and misleading. He was still refused leave to appeal. That case is now proceeding to the High Court of Australia.

Tasmania introduced the new right of appeal in 2015. In the six years since then there has only been one application, which was unsuccessful. It involves a notorious case which has been the subject of documentaries, podcasts and much media attention. There are many who take the view that if that case cannot be overturned there is no hope for any others. (An application seeking leave to appeal to the High Court on behalf of that case was lodged on January 4, 2022.)

Victoria introduced the new right of appeal in 2019. In the three years since then there have been 3 successful appeals (two of which arose from the Lawyer X scandal), and four rather hopeless applications. There has been one additional case as a referral by the Attorney-General under the previous procedure.

According to the most conservative estimates, about 2% of serious criminal convictions are unsafe; “that would amount to some 800 wrongful convictions. Some of course may be picked up by the regular appeal process,” says Dr Moles, “but the experience of the UK for example, is that they have discovered that even after all appeals have been exhausted, there are still a significant number of wrongful conviction cases to be found.”

There is absolutely no doubt, he says, that “if Keogh, Neill-Fraser, Bromley and many others had occurred in the UK they would have been referred back to the courts by the CCRC and also no doubt that they would have then been overturned by the appeal courts. The lack of a CCRC in Australia means that the appeal courts are not being properly subjected to peer review and the High Court cannot process the number of cases necessary to fulfil that function.”

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23 Responses to Is Australia fair dinkum about wrongful convictions?

  1. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich says:

    I am a widow , 78 in a few days, a Dalmatian refugee in WW2. I owned freehold a mansion, etc in Adelaide about 6 doors up from Sir Donald Bradman. I came to Tasmania for health reasons. The Tasmanian establishment :–the courts, lawyers and Police are totally corrupt. They hate “Blow-ins”. We arrived cashed up from S.A. in 2002 with enough money to buy cash a mansion in Sandy Bay. It has been 20 years of HELL ! Our “crime”? Envy because we bought iconic land at Pt Arthur which we refused to sell to Developers. We had no criminal records. 13 page Report to police to detain us under The Mental Health Act to have our land seized and sold for a fraction of it ‘s worth to the Developers .Their lawyer managed to get his buddy, a lecturer in Commercial Transactions who is on the Board of a famous Tasmanian business, appointed as a very temporary magistrate to hear our case. . “You both are persons of exemplary characters, but, I will rule against you ,just in case !” We got Restraint Orders and Court Costs awarded against us. My husband was so distressed he was clutching his heart + could not see to drive home. These four destroyed our finances and our health. With no money left we were forced to live in an unlined Farm shed where I still live rough as an elderly widow with almost no money. My husband did not wish to live any more , died of cancer. In 2020 police broke into my home with the excuse I was probably ” dead “inside . I do not take any medication and was in excellent health in Hobart CBD where police found me. Police admitted liability for the damage. Irrepairable. Police refuse to pay compensation. 16 months later I am left with permanent damage and no home security . Integrity Commission dismissed my Complaint against woman police sergeant who authorised the breakin , + against her boss , a Police Commander, and against an Assistant Police Commissioner . Police Cover-up to protect their promotions now that Commisssioner Hine has retired . From Countess Antonia Scrivanich widow of Australian ex-Serviceman, Ronald Ian McLellan.

    • Geraldine Allan says:

      I do hope we read, hear more on this matter.

    • Owen allen says:

      By the power of God, and Mr McDonald, and other individuals from Whis tleblowers, I knew in my heart these people work together across the board, and are totally evil, and I have my own evidence.
      Thankyou for speaking out here. We need power players of integrity to step in; I met a couple, years ago, who were ostracised, terrorised, and victimised, and subsequently traumatised, because. Because the man was an American Indian who had a teepee on his rural property and played Tom Tom drums, and they collected road kill for food. Killed by car, dead animals; waste not want not is my thoughts there. They were Rednecked by neighbour and had no protection from local council. Same old, same old.
      God Bless You Countess Antonia Scrivanich, and I must add, my heart bleeds for the trauma they instilled upon you. I believe it, I know you speak Truth.
      Owen, Commercial Pilot Crop Duster, Proffessional Sidecar Rider and Risdon Maximum Prison ex Inmate, oh, and Guitar Busker, whence they took me away to Maximum Prison, oh, and put an arrest warrant on me for attending a public seminar in a public place, ” breaking a restraining order”??? We need help. I call on ACIC, AFP, ASIO, the Enemy is Within.

      • Owen allen says:

        Oh, and most importantly I call for help from ADF, RAAF.
        —…—.😂. I was trained to stay alive at low level by RAAF Wing Commander Mike Greentree at Schofields Aero Club, by aerobatic training at Restricted Pilots Level, before my Comm Licence and Ag Rating, at minimum hours and green horn.
        And coached at NSW Chapter, Australian Aerobatic Club, by RAAF Wing Commander Noel Kruse. I have been taught by the best in Aeronautics and knew a lot of now dead men.
        I know Air Force have respect for lives, because they realise any day might be their last, yet they take the risk. I wouldn’t have survived Tasmania without pilot training by the best.
        Tasmania is a Totalatarian Corrupt State.

    • Owen allen says:

      Where are you now Antonia? I will expell the cockroaches from my caravan and you can sleep there, I will go back to a tent, its great in Northern Rivers. Stay in touch, we look after fatherless and widows, Gods Order. Hey, I live in a c/van park. It is a tribe of residents and gypsies; great. Real People.(most). Losts of Elders, and some children.

  2. Noeline Durovic says:

    Hi Andrew, There appears for some decades there has not been any matters of comeuppance for some of those of the Tasmanian Police – Justice Department/DPP – Judiciary or False witnesses..Taking into account persons rotten decades ago still acting in all dishonesty today. Sadly still uttering false witness to incarcerate and fit up a person(s) to a sentence in Jail in Tasmania whom are without crime or sin!… Extraordinarily some still at it three decades later! So called Lawyers breaking their oath in law and justice in all appearances tainted by greed – ambition and corruption! Worst of all when a person or people fight for exposure of proof of innocence to fight the crime of false imprisoment / for a persons innocence..TasINC offers treachery bullying blackmail and evil. Dismal and harsh misuse of Perversion of Justice.
    In other words false charges send innocent people to prison as they are fitted up?Reputations and lives are trampled on ruthlessly – what ever it takes- Tasmanian Justice INC Truth and the real documents of witness statements must never see the light of day to enable this to occur..I know “we’ have seen a roomful hidden under the hand of the present DPP…How damnable is that? – Of witnesses statements of truth. – Of documentation that prove lies They then in stealth and deceit become hidden – disappeared or criminally destroyed?..Referred to, under oath by two Tasmanian OC’s during a hearing; in the Tasmanian Supreme Court as “a room full – a truck load”.Damming documents to the Justice Department/DPP(s)

    This framing of a person jailed in Tasmania for a crime they not only did not do! I know in this for example they couldn’t nor would do! . Unravelled is proven proof of the unfeasibility to commit such a criminal act! How fraud of put false evidence and false testifying undresses the manipulation of given testifying of crown witnesses blatant perjury, ridiculously nonsensical! Proof points to a conspiracies of evil perpetrated to cover up thieving and fraud. Such criminality! It is wicked!

    Up until now Australia has not been ‘fair dinkum’ to and for the rights for innocent persons false charges of incarcerated sentencing into wrongful imprisonment? Notoriously Susan Neil Fraser now ranks of 13 years a horrible ‘Lyndy Chamberlain’ type miscarriage of justice? Whilst murder is done and known to be done yet Tasmanian Police/Justice/DPP keep ‘Sam free? A named killer’ publicly named involved in a bloody bashing murder? Sue innocent wrongfully convicted with tainted fitted none fair dinkum false – misleading evidence rotten to the core!

    • Robert Greenshields says:

      You raise valid and relevant points Noeline, and without diminishing Sue Neill Frasers plight, or that of any other “Apple Isle”person suffering under the weight of venal public servants and their centric valued cultures and behaviour, the enormity of the problem across the whole nation needs to be recognised.
      NSW, and in particular from my experiences and knowledge in the North West, the cultures of bullying, deceit, perjury, extortion, and probable judicial exploitative malpractice, by the conforming, obsequious cowards in uniforms, and the corresponding judicial administrations, are all well accepted community factors, and it have been for decades.

      Many similar/like minded cowards in communities endeavour to embrace and ingratiate themselves with the less than professional, though influential aspects of policing officers in particular, as they consider themselves aligned in some abstract form of predominance within generally smaller cliques of public service employees in less populated communities. Perjury in courts by the supporters of venal police (accompanied by and through other probable links to small local organisations and institutions), confirms their personal need to remain solid, even when they knowingly speak of the criminal behaviour of local and area command police themselves.

      The need to overturn the fore mentioned cultures of venality, deceit, collusion, criminality, and probable corruption is a necessity, and the thin edge of the wedge needs to be driven more deeply into the stratified layers of status quo accompanied complacency and complicit criminality that abounds, I feel sure, across OZ.

      Maintain the faith, and maintain the rage. Cowards in uniforms and or, public service positions of authority need to be held accountable. Oz is not some manicured, garden like a picture post card presented Port Arthur; long term cultures preceding, and now actively serving public servants have ensured and cemented our ever eroding demise, and are fundamentally continuing to disable honest communities and citizens, resulting in the rabid, more rapid, further regression of our once proud nations values, morals, and impending ruinous fate.

      • Noeline Durovic says:

        Sadly Robert living through the ‘Tyranny’ of questionable NSW 60’70’s and early 80’s so upright as we were and naive to the crookery of the NSW Police force/Justice Departs Politicians….Both my husband and I were old school and never gave in to an inch at great cost to our lives..However for that for us nothing has changed. Injustice is dirt and crookery that need upending not to hurt and hinder lives! I believe Good must overcome evil..So my believe forSue is strong and forthright for her with all the thousands Australia and GlobalCitizens whom place they’re names for her.

        • Robert Greenshields says:

          Good upon ye Noelle, confronting institutionalised cowardice can be somewhat lonelier than being a conforming, echelon stratified, obsequious toady, impatiently time serving and filling in spaces until the next rung on the ladder enables advancement to the denuded dizzy heights of another in house only recognised petty advancement.

  3. Poppa Maddo says:

    Nothing will change until we find a Ghandi-like champion for our cause and WE THE PEOPLE MARCH EN-MASSE countrywide to demand it.
    IMHO The level of Corruption, Ineptitude and deliberate obsfuscation of FACTS in relation to False Allegations and Wrongful Convictions by Police, Child Welfare, Family Courts and the Legal Profession as a whole, well exceeds that to be found in the Drug Smuggling Cartels.
    Perhaps a change of Government in Australia is the answer?
    Mr.Albanese our Ghandi ??

    • Owen allen says:

      Are you ready Poppa? Will you lead us. Will we follow you?
      Will you follow me? I have to work to paybills.
      Don’t worry Poppa, I been thinking for years how to go about it.
      The Knitting Grannies have it, but they need to do some Mil Training 😅
      Things will happen in due course when the time is right.
      We just have to be patient. So you say be patient and Sue has been in prison for over 12 years. And I reply, before Sue was in prison I was living in Tasmania Hell, and still am. But yes, I have relief; I ride my Harley Davidson every day. For years I was too depressed to even ride, but I was forced to ride it because my car rego expired. I have trouble looking after myself and have for years. I live in a cockroach infested hovel like you would expect a bike to live in. Yes it is real. But I focus on the fight, the real wsr, not my pleasant lifestyle. I gobto work to earn thebucks to keep me in the fight. That is why I was sacked in Tasmania; economic sanctions, loss of livelyhood, loss of career. Just like sanctions against Russia. But I did not invade Tasmania, I was transferred from South Australia with the company.
      Ride Hard, Die Free, Owen.

  4. David Smith says:

    Every Day Government Departments become more Dishonest – Arrogant – Corrupt – and Unprofessional – They get away with it because most everyday people have not experienced the wrong side of these areas – Plus – they are protected by Politicians who do not make Laws to protect the Community – only to protect the Government Employees and themselves – Recently the Integrity Commissioner in Queensland had her Office broken into and her Laptop containing a large amount of Corruption and Illegal Activities – Laptop stolen – All Information Wiped – Laptop returned with nothing on it – All Investigation Material Disappeared – This was obviously done by people who would be adversely named – Public Servants – Staff within the Corruption Fighting Bodies who have covered up Corrupt Activities – Where are the Media writing Front Page Articles on this – This goes to the Heart of Corruption – Queensland is more Corrupt than it has ever been before – Having had Dealings with Government in Tasmania – it is no better – probably worse – Innocent People in Prison with Police Politicians and Senior Staff all denying the Real Facts. We need someone who will represent us who is Honest and Professional – Get rid of all of the current lot in all levels of Government. Demonstrate or tell the Politicians – we have had enough.

  5. Fiona Peate says:

    Influential people in the community are resistant to mechanisms to investigate & overturn wrongful convictions.
    Such as:
    -lawyers & judges whose reputations may/ would be tarnished
    – police exposed as having flawed investigation processes +/- corruption
    -pathologists exposed as running flawed investigations using questionable science & not withstanding their lack of impartiality to police agendas
    – politicians terrified they may need to fork out $$$ in compensation plus expenses associated with establishing a CCRC to sort out the messes.
    It’s going to need a concerted hard push by concerned citizens & conscientious experts to get a National CCRC up & running.

  6. Julie says:

    With examples of a CCRC playing an integral role in the justice systems of the UK & Canada, how long must Australia’s justice system lag behind?

  7. Steven Fennell says:

    There is not, and never has been any votes for legal, prison reform hence it is ignored,
    paradoxically the more extreme the call for law and order are met with adulation and votes for the provocateur of that position.

    Justice will only prevail if and when the community seeks justice. At the moment most folk are just looking for the best deal on avocado on toast justice is not their concern or business.

    • Owen allen says:

      Too true, Tavistock, the Masters of Mind Control, have manipulated minds to help the masters of society, look after number one. By the house, stretch the mortgage, go deeper into debt. Can not speak out against injustice. Shut the mouth.
      Hey, I was sacked in Tasmania for standing up to a neighbour bully, yes, I was a blow in. And it happens everywhere in small town scenarios, but the buck stops at the top. In Tasmania, the buck stops at Bass Straight.
      But see the rats run Scotty, see the rats run. 2 Premiers running.

  8. Robinbowles says:

    If it happened to Sue, it could happen to you. See my new book Rough Justice, out 1May.

  9. Rodger Warren says:

    The establishment of a National Criminal Cases Review Commission is long overdue.
    Let us hope that after the next election, parliament will turn their attention to forming a CCRC.
    All we can do is keep the issue in their Email inbox.
    Take care
    Rodger Warren

  10. Chris says:

    The problem is pervasive in Australia, yet we clearly remain in the “denial” phase.

    People seem to believe that wrongful convictions are an American problem.
    I would rather be innocent and in jail in America, where there are far more people who recognise that there is a problem, and far more legal avenues for pursuing justice, including invoking constitutional rights.

    • chris says:

      Oh, and as Dr Moles says, 2% is the “most conservative” estiimate. Most estimates are at least double that, and it could easily be as high as 10%.

  11. Owen allen says:

    Do not give up. Local humanity is dependent on people like Andrew, Robert and all positve contributors, and it is even nice to read the point of view of negative people. As the world is today, I am so pleased and thankfull experienced international volunteers are offering their service to stand up against the worlds latest and largest aggressor; committing murder no less.
    During time of floods and war, we have to remained focus on local injustice. We can not take our eyes off the local picture. Release Sue Neill-Fraser now.
    Mr Prime Minister, Australia needs a Federal Royal Commission Tasmania and a Federal Criminal Case Review Commission. I knew you would understand under these stressfull times. Thank you.

  12. Robert Greenshields says:

    I tend to believe that sections of the Oz community are indifferent to a great many of the supposed social issues hyper media releases claim as justified and in need of intervention, and correctly so. Wrongful convictions though, along with the alternative of no convictions where it seems injustices are escaping correction through inadequate and hypocritical judicial manipulation, are matters that should not be included within the forementioned hyper covered social and supposed community issues. Each and every assault on our communities is of grave concern, and none is more damaging to our national welfare than what are seen as gross manipulation and eventual miscarriages of justice by those entrusted to be responsible for our laws, regulations and orders. The obvious insustainable fallacy that policing and other long-term administrative services that have, through improper use of perceived power and other influencing factors (the
    obliging judicial processes), greatly devalued Australia and its population (policing forces investigating policing officers offences), are beyond rightful investigations and interrogation, needs to be culled. Injury and dislocation created through injustices manufactured by public servants through lies, deceit, venality, and the blatant distortion of facts that eventually further minimise any of the little remaining respect for authority, is responsible for much of the decline in our values and national progress. Recent court cases along with investigating inquiries cement the fact that the accepted status quo is not now a fundamental function in our society. Sue Neill Frasers debacle and its continuity over such a long term adds unconditional evidence as to the failure and needs for change now.

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