It was that time of year again that all of us at Doogue + George look forward to – the ADLA conference. ADLA is an acronym for the Australian Defence Lawyers Alliance which is an exclusive alliance made up of six criminal defence firms from around Australia. Each year we all meet for a conference where we learn about new developments in the law and other relevant disciplines such as forensics and pathology. This year, ADLA was held in Adelaide.
We were spoilt with a suite of interesting speakers who gave us insight into their respective fields. The highlight for me was Mr Richard Edney who is a member of the Victorian Bar. Richard has chambers at Crockett Chambers with Victoria’s most pre-eminent criminal defence barristers. Richard practices primarily in criminal law and criminal appeals and is regularly briefed by our firm. Here is a copy of Richard’s VicBar profile for those of you who are interested – https://www.vicbar.com.au/profile/7697.
Richard’s presentation, ‘The Scope, Adequacy and Fairness of Police Investigation: Shining a Light and Casting Doubt’, reminded us that we must question how Police gather evidence and compile their brief.
There are four key stages to any criminal investigation:
- Investigating the physical crime scene. In our modern technology filled world this includes investigating the digital crime scene such as phone tower records, text messages, emails, call logs, EFTPOS transactions, etc.
- Taking witness statements. The account given in a witness statement must not be accepted as accurate and true merely because the witness has sworn it is accurate and true. Looking at the surrounding circumstances of how the statement was prepared is important. You may find that the witness was influenced by external factors when they prepared their statement.
- The accused is interviewed by Police. Was the interview conducted fairly? If not, the admissions made by the accused during the interview may not be played to the jury.
- Forensic analysis. There is always a right and a wrong time to raise things. By raising issues with Police too early, you run the risk of alerting them to an error that they have made giving them an opportunity to repair it. It is important to trust your lawyer’s judgement and bide your time.
A trial or a contested hearing is a re-construction of a past event which the Prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt. The Police brief of evidence is an artefact shaped by the investigator’s opinions, biases and motivations (good or bad). It is our job as defence lawyers to de-construct the Police investigation. We can do this by requesting all the Police notes and draft statements to probe deep into a Police investigation. This will normally surface flaws in the Police investigation.
I recently had a matter at Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court where I convinced the Prosecution to withdraw a major charge because the Informant was told by a witness that someone else was responsible, but he did not investigate this lead. It was apparent that the Informant arrived at a conclusion early into the investigation and was looking for evidence which supported that conclusion. The Prosecution would have struggled to satisfy a Magistrate that the Police conducted a comprehensive investigation had the matter gone to a contested hearing.
Like anything, preparation is key, therefore, if you have been charged by Police with a criminal offence, do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your matter. Our firm specialises in criminal defence work and we have achieved great results for our clients because of our attention to detail.
Thank you to Richard and all the other distinguished speakers who shared their thought-provoking topics with us.