Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Monday, 29 November 2010

What price injustice?

The more serious the crime the more important it is that the police get the right man, surely? And if the crime is rape then this is important not just from the standpoint of seeing justice done but also because stuffing things up and convicting an innocent man inevitably means a rapist is still at large.* That's one price of injustice, but the innocent man in gaol bears a heavy cost too and deserves to be compensated when the truth emerges. That may not come cheap when it's occurred by mistake - a simple matter of cross contamination of DNA samples for example cost Farah Jama 15 months of his life and eventually cost the government of Victoria half a million dollars. But when someone believes he was jailed for something he didn't do, that it wrecked his life to an irreparable degree and that the police concealed exculpatory evidence, what price then?

45 million dollars?
An Australian pilot who spent almost 1000 days in prison after being wrongfully convicted of child sex offences will this week launch a $45 million lawsuit against the Australian government.

The statement of claim by Fred Martens against the Commonwealth alleges Australian Federal Police withheld and removed evidence which they knew cleared him of the allegations.


Mr Martens was jailed in 2006 for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl in Port Moresby. Queensland's Court of Appeal quashed the conviction in 2009 after Mr Martens' family was able to obtain flight records which proved Mr Martens was not in Port Moresby at the time of the offence.
In fact they show he was about 1,000km away.
The statement of claim alleges AFP officers deliberately concealed the existence of the aviation records at Mr Martens' court hearings, despite them being readily available from PNG authorities. It alleges the AFP was more concerned with successfully prosecuting Mr Martens than investigating the facts of the case.

''The defendants failed to investigate the matter to find the truth but instead endeavoured to amass evidence to bolster a case against the plaintiff regardless of its truth or falsity,'' the document alleges.
Okay, so he's lost two and a half years which he'll never get back, and if it's true that the AFP withheld evidence that's very bad and they do deserve to be hammered for it (even though it's the poor old taxpayer who will end up coughing up for it), but $45 million?
Mr Martens said because his passport had been confiscated and his funds frozen while he was awaiting trial in Australia, he was not able to fly to PNG to prepare his own defence. He said a magistrate had ordered the AFP to investigate any leads raised by his legal team but the statement of claim alleges officers failed to do so.
Mr Martens is claiming $45 million in losses, including for the death of his infant daughter Stephanie who he says died in PNG of malaria because he was unable to provide funds to care for her.

The statement of claim also alleges that a number of Mr Martens' PNG businesses, which included the nation's Royal Flying Doctor Service, were lost or collapsed because he was not there to run them.
It also states he lost several large properties because he was not there to secure them. Mr Martens said the properties had since been taken over by settlers and removing them would result in violent confrontations.
And I thought Farah Jama had had it bad. Losses of businesses and property aside I cannot imagine what this guy felt as the news that his daughter had died was brought to him in his cell.

$45 million is a lot of money, though I wouldn't be surprised if a settlement is reached out of court for a secret but certainly much smaller sum, but this is a fair bit beyond the normal suffering when a miscarriage of justice occurs. But if his claim is true, if evidence that supported his alibi was suppressed, isn't that obstruction of justice? A cock up is one thing but the allegation is that it was done deliberately because getting a result was more important than getting the right result. Shouldn't the Director of Public Prosecutions at least be looking into how the hell this happened and whether or not any individual officers bear any responsibility?

Maybe that will be decided after the suit but for now there seems to be no mention.

* Obviously this doesn't apply to the Ambush Predator's collection.
Related Posts with Thumbnails