Monday, 28 January 2008

Discredited pathologist admits he was 'profoundly ignorant'

The enquiry into a series of miscarriages of justice is currently hearing from a forensic pathologist who appeared as an "expert witness" in many child death cases.

The review, with findings made public in April 2007, focused on 45 child autopsies Smith conducted between 1991 and 2002, when he was considered a leading expert on pediatric forensics at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
How does this kind of thing happen? What sort of system allows someone who is "largely self taught" take on these kind of responsibilities? Does not the defence have an obligation to question the expertise of "experts"?

What is really scary is that miscarriages of justice now seem to be much more common than the system has ever been ready to accept. In some cases technical advances have thrown new light on evidence. DNA testing being the most obvious. But we have also seen cases - and too many of them - where evidence unhelpful to the prosecution was simply ignored. Where the driving force appears to have been to get someone convicted rather than establish exactly what happened. Where police backed up their colleagues rather than admit to the truth.

And now it seems Mr Harper is seriously thinking about reintroducing the death penalty. He has already stopped objections to the deportations of Canadians to US states where they may face the death penalty - a very significant policy shift nowhere debated or voted upon by anyone. Locking up someone for many years who has done nothing wrong is bad enough. But there is no apology or recompense when you have taken someone's life - and then discover that it was a mistake.

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