Expert verdict on Kathleen’s case: “worst miscarriage of justice seen in Australia”
A leading forensic pathologist who examined the evidence in Kathleen Folbigg’s case and found no proof that she had killed her children has called for the establishment of a Criminal Cases Review Commission.
In 2015, Melbourne-based Professor Stephen Cordner concluded that: “There is no positive forensic pathology support for the contention that any or all of these children have been killed.”
An article co-authored by Kerry Breen, Stephen Cordner and David Weisbrot for John Menadue’s Public Policy Journal suggests that an independent review body will buttress the courts, remedying miscarriages of justice by deciphering often complex expert evidence.
“Most Australians implicitly trust the Australian legal system to convict the guilty and acquit the innocent. Generally, that trust is well-earned, although cases where complex expert evidence is central can be problematic,” the co-authors state.
They point to the difficulty that judges and juries have in interpreting and weighing complex scientific and medical evidence, and the difficulty in determining the reliability of that evidence.
“Such a weakness was at the heart of the worst miscarriages of justice seen in Australia,” they state, pointing to “current disquiet over the continued incarceration of Kathleen Folbigg in New South Wales”.
A Criminal Cases Review Commission was established in the UK 25 years ago, following a series of disturbing miscarriages of justice. The CCRC provides a specialist independent mechanism for thorough review of convictions after the completion of all appeals, but where concerns continue or emerge.
“In our view, Australia urgently needs to establish its own CCRC at arms’ length from courts and politicians,” they write. “It is simply not fair that, for example, Folbigg’s future now rests formally with the NSW governor, acting on the advice of the NSW attorney-general.”
We agree – it is devastating that Kathleen remains behind bars, with her fate in the hands of elected politicians who, as Professor Cordner (above) writes, are “subject to the tempests of public opinion”.
We stand with these respected medical and legal professionals in calling for Australia to establish a CCRC and call for the scientific evidence in Kathleen’s case to be considered ahead of public opinion.
Kathleen has spent 18 years behind bars on the basis of discredited evidence. It’s time for the NSW justice system to admit it made a mistake.