CRIMINOLOGY 6 Essay Example
8th September 2011
Mallard v The Queen, 1995 is one of the cases that have took place in Western Australian which resulted into an amendment of a legislation. This was a criminal case with forensic evidence which was used to convict the defendant of a criminal act. Andrew Mallard as the defendant was accused and convicted of a criminal act of murder. Mallard allegedly murdered Mrs Lawrence in 1994. Mrs Lawrence operated a jewellery shop in one of the towns in New South Wales State of Australia (2).
Breadth of the case
Forensic evidence revealed that indeed Andrew Mallard had committed murder and the defendant proceeded to serve a life term in prison. However, Mallard continued to maintain his innocence and protested the evidence produced in deciding his case. After his conviction, Mallard made his appeal to the Criminal Appeal Court of Western Australia (1).
His appeal was turned down and subsequently he also sought to appeal to the High Court through a special leave but his appeal was also turned down. After several appeals were refused Mallard proceeded to serve his jail term as a life prisoner. However, the defendant continued to protests the court’s decisions and maintained that he was innocent. Nevertheless, a group of supporters, family members and a group of lawyers referred to as “pro bono lawyers” continued to challenge the conviction of Mallard maintaining that Mallard was innocent (2).
These groups protested the manner in which forensic evidence was carried out and presented requiring the courts to order fresh forensic evidence to be carried out in order to determine the real killer of Mrs. Lawrence. Basing their arguments on unsatisfactory trial features, the governor of New South Wales was presented with a petition to exercise a royal prerogative of mercy on Mallard (2). The Court of Appeal was presented with the petition by the Attorney General.
However, the petition was again rejected by the Court of Appeal and the conviction of Mallard was again confirmed by the Court of Appeal. The High Court of Australia appellate jurisdiction was invoked by Mallard where Mallard made an appeal for a special leave. The Court of Appeal granted Mallard a special leave to appeal his case (3).
The forensic evidence that led to the conviction of Mallard as a murderer and the killer of Mrs. Lawrence relied on chemical analysis. The chemical analysis was performed on Mallard’s clothes. This was done because it was believed that after committing the crime Mallard washed his clothes in order to remove the blood stains (2). Forensic investigations determined traces of salt water on Mallard’s clothes which was a strong indication and evidence that Mallard had committed the crime.
Forensic evidence also established that the victim (Mrs. Lawrence) had been killed by a spanner. The spattering impact of a spanner was also established on the body of the victim which further revealed the fact that the victim had been killed by an individual who used a spanner as the weapon. Forensic evidence proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Mallard was the real killer of Mrs. Lawrence.
As a matter of legal principle, the prosecution is required to disclose any form of evidence in order to give the defence team the opportunity to determine whether the prosecution has determined and proved beyond reasonable doubt that indeed the accused is responsible for committing certain crimes as alleged (2). After Mallard’s special leave was granted the appellate court judges led by Honourable Judge Michael Kirby discovered that there were numerous inconsistencies and errors which had been brought into the process of carrying out forensic investigation by the police and forensic investigators (2).
Discussion appropriately critical
The need for more comprehensive investigations that relied on comprehensive forensic evidence raised intense debate into the extent and the process through which forensic investigations would be carried out. An amendment into the Crimes (Forensic Procedure) Legislation Act 2000 came into the fore as one of the ways of regulating the power of the police in the process of performing forensic procedures on offenders, suspects and the volunteers.
The amendment followed an intense debate that had ensued in the public domain regarding the process, the time frame and the procedures that were followed by the police in performing forensic investigations which resulted into convictions of innocent people and the release of the offenders into the public realm. Several cases of this nature where forensic evidence was used to convict innocent people and later used to set free the same people through fresh forensic investigations include that of Gassy v The Queen, Carr v Western Australia, The Button case and the The Farah Jama Case (2).
Even though forensic evidence was applied in each of the above mentioned cases, the errors and conviction of innocent people led to a series of amendment of the Crimes (Forensic Procedure) Legislation Act 2000 in order to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated again (3).
Effects of the changed legislation
Among the effects brought by the changed legislation cited above include how authorisation of forensic procedures in different circumstances should be carried out because as is the case with Mallard v. The Queen, 1995, it was discovered that forensic evidence cannot be relied upon in all criminal cases (2). The other effect of the changed legislation was the time within which forensic procedures should be carried out. For example, the time limit for performing forensic procedures should not exceed two hours after the suspect is presented to the police in order to ensure that all the elements required to be collected in the “scene of crime” are collected before they are tampered with (5).
In conclusion, the authorization of forensic procedures is the duty of the magistrate or an authorised officer after determining the need for forensic evidence in determining a particular case (4). It is imperative to state that more amendments have also occurred on this Act since 2000 in order to make forensic evidence more practical and applicable in dealing with contemporary crimes. Hence, this is one of the cases where forensic evidence has been applied but resulted into an amendment to the legislation due to the numerous mistakes and errors occurring in the process of forensic investigations.
1. Colleen, E.Murderer No More: Andrew Mallard and the Epic Fight that Proved his Innocence (Allen & Unwin, 2010) 200.
2. Kirby, M. «Forensic Evidence: Instrument of Truth or Potential for Miscarriage?” JlLawInfoSci. 2010, 2; (23-45) 20
3. Murphy, E. ‘The New Forensics: Criminal Justice, False Certainty and the Second Generation of Scientific Evidence’. California Law Review (2007), 722.
4. Ruth, M et al. ‘Quartz grain surface textures of soil and sediments from Canberra Australia: A forensic reconstruction tool’. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2010) 42 169.
5. Victoria, J. Inquiry into the Circumstances that Led to the Conviction of Mr. Farah Abdulkadir Jama, 6 May 2010 (The Hon Frank Vincent QC). See also Jason Gregory, ‘Taking on Faith Value’, (September 2010) Law Institute Journal (Vic), 24-25.
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