Sunday, July 31, 2005


No escaping Scotland's crooked police

Innocent people may be languishing in Scottish jails for years because of a backlog in the appeal system. This week saw a major drive to tackle the bottleneck with several special sessions of the appeal court - but only to help convicted killers. The hearings were forced as lifers exercised their European Human Rights to query the length of their jail terms. Yet as the guilty skip the queue, those with questionable convictions are left rotting behind bars.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice, has referred 15 cases that have still to be heard by the High Court. They date as far back as 2001. John McManus, of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, has accused the system of 'psychologically torturing' the potentially falsely accused. He said: 'It's a terrible indictment of the system that possible innocent victims can rot in jail, waiting sometimes up until five years, to have their appeal against conviction heard. 'In the meantime, guilty offenders questioning their length of sentence can be fast-tracked in front of them. It is psychological torture.'

One of the worst delays has been for Steven Johnston, 42, who was jailed in March 1996 for the murder of Andrew Forsyth in Dunfermline. His case was referred to the High Court in June 2001 by the SCCRC as a potential miscarriage of justice, but has yet to be heard. An investigation by the SCCRC discovered Fife police had suppressed crucial witness statements from the Crown that may have freed Johnston and his co-accused Billy Allison. Allison admitted to having a fight with Mr Forsyth at his home on November 3 1995, but claimed it only lasted a couple of minutes before Johnston split it up. The Crown claimed the men left Mr Forsyth murdered in his flat before his body was discovered six days later by his mother.

However, several witnesses claim to have seen Forsyth alive as late as November 8. But at least six statements were withheld from the Crown by the police. Crucially, Lord Macfadyen told the trial jury: 'If it is not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased was killed on November 3 the Crown case fails and the accused are entitled to be acquitted.' In its review of the conviction the SCCRC concluded: 'The police took it upon themselves to filter out the existence of witnesses whose evidence might point to the deceased having been alive after November 3.' One witness, Michael Healy, could have testified to having spoken to Forsyth in his shop on November 4. Karen Wheelwright said she spoke to him on the street in November 6 and Michael Franklin said he saw him having a pint at Jinty's pub in Dunfermline on November 8.

The SCCRC report said: 'The quality of evidence which they might have been able to give at that time would have been such that there is a strong possibility that it would have had an influence on the decision of the jury.' But despite the strong grounds of appeal, Johnston is still waiting. Last night speaking from Perth Prison, Johnston said the last few years had been terrible. He said: 'It is so stressful. The not knowing is awful. It took three months to convict me on trumped-up charges so why have I been waiting four years for an appeal?' He said he has been given several dates in the past, but all have been cancelled.

It is possible his appeal may go ahead in October, but he now refuses to get his hopes up. He said: 'Before I used to get excited when I was given a date, but after all these years I don't any more. I just don't trust the system to deliver. I just need to know now so that I can move on with my life.'

Thomas TC Campbell, cleared of the notorious ice cream war murders, said even being released pending an appeal is nothing like real freedom. After a 20-year fight Campbell and his co-accused Joe Steele won their fight, but they had 10 years of being dragged through the appeal system before their names were cleared last year. Campbell said: 'It can take three to four months from prosecution to conviction, but four years to undo a serious miscarriage of justice. 'As time goes on it is like waiting on death row, waiting to see whether you will live or die, because psychologically it is the same kind of pressure.' He said many innocent accused have already taken years for their case to even reach the SCCRC and that waiting for the appeal is the final straw.

Steele and Campbell were granted interim liberation on their first appeal, but he said it was like living in 'no man's land'. Campbell said: 'Your life can't begin and it can't stop, you are sitting in no man's land. You are standing still, waiting on your name being clear. 'Physically and technically some of these people might be out on the street, but psychologically they are still in prison. 'They can't adapt back to society because they are mentally in chains waiting for that conviction to be overturned.'

Convicted killer William Gage is serving life in Shotts for a gangland hit that his own trial judge is not convinced he committed. Despite assurances that his case would be fast-tracked, haggling between his lawyers and the Crown means his appeal has not yet been heard. In a report for his appeal his trial judge Lord Elmslie said the evidence against Gage would have failed to convince many juries to convict. Gage was convicted for the shooting of drug dealer Justin McAlroy in March 2002. He has now been given a date for appeal on September 20, but on the three previous occasions it has been delayed. Speaking from prison he said last night: 'It is agony having to wait. I feel like I have been buried alive and that no matter how hard I scream for help the authorities don't seem to care.'

Brian Wilson and Ian Murray have been freed on life licence after being convicted of murdering Murray's sister Alison in 1986. The pair were both 18 when they confessed to strangling her in the Bluebell woods in Drumchapel, Glasgow. They served their full sentence, but are now desperately trying to clear their names in an appeal. Their case was referred to the High Court by the SCCRC in June last year. A psychologist told the SCCRC that the confessions may have been unsound and made under duress and pressure from the police. There was no forensic evidence and crucially, both men claimed they had strangled her with her bra.

The Scottish Executive was forced to introduce the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) (Scotland) Act this year to address the problem of delays in the High Courts. A spokesman for the Executive said it had recognised the backlog problem in 2003. It hired extra sheriffs as temporary judges to free permanent judges to sit on additional appeal courts to help clear the pile-up. But there have been only seven additional permanent judges appointed since 1999. A spokesman for the Scottish Court Service said it was aiming to supply all waiting SCCRC referrals an appeal date by the end of the year

Report here

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Saturday, July 30, 2005


Shot in the line of duty. Twice awarded the Medal of Honor. Named Essex County, New Jersey Police Officer of the Year. A highly decorated officer with an impeccable record. For 22 years police officer Eric Washington battled criminals on the streets of East Orange, New Jersey. On January 21, 2001 Washington was ambushed and brought down--not by an ex-convict bent on revenge or a shadowy gunman, but instead by a false accusation of domestic violence.

Under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 individuals, including police officers and armed forces personnel, are prohibited from possessing a firearm if they are subject to a restraining order issued at the behest of a spouse or an intimate partner. The 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban expanded this prohibition to bar officers and service personnel from carrying weapons as part of their jobs. As a result, most police officers who are hit with restraining orders lose their careers. Were restraining orders issued as a result of a reasonable proof of guilt, the two laws might make sense. However, according to Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Women's Bar Association, restraining orders are doled out "like candy" to "virtually all who apply," and that "in virtually all cases, no notice, meaningful hearing, or impartial weighing of evidence is to be had."

A study conducted by Massachusetts courts revealed that the majority of restraining orders did not even involve an allegation of violence. According to family law attorney Lisa Scott of Seattle, Washington, "the woman saying she 'feels afraid' of her husband is usually enough. Men have no way to defend themselves against these accusations. Most judges grant restraining orders to any woman who applies for one, and often do so in an assembly-line fashion." Thus unless the accused can get the order undone at a later hearing--no easy feat in today's climate--any police officer's or serviceman's career is one flimsy accusation away from destruction. In some states, officers forfeit their right to possess weapons (and consequently lose their jobs) by the mere fact that a woman has made a police report of domestic violence.

For fathers, the destruction is often double. Since restraining orders are frequently utilized in divorce and child custody battles, falsely accused officers often have their careers destroyed at the very moment they are slapped with stiff child and spousal support obligations, as well as divorce-related legal costs.

Beyond the grave injustices visited upon many innocent men, the current law may also have a negative long-term effect on police and military recruitment, both of which are already in troubling decline. Why should a man risk his safety and devote his life to a career that can be taken away from him at any moment by a flimsy allegation?

Washington's career survived because his department had the resources to provide him with a desk job while he waged his long and ultimately successful legal fight to clear himself. Most officers aren't so fortunate. Former Torrance, California police officer John Brumbaugh recently won a seven-year legal battle after an ex-girlfriend falsely accused him of battery. Though Brumbaugh's conviction was overturned and his name finally cleared, the false charges cost him his career as a police officer and several hundred thousand dollars in legal expenses and lost wages and benefits.

The Violence Against Women Act expires in September and legislation to renew it for five years was recently introduced by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Arlen Specter (R-PA). In hearings beginning on July 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider various amendments to include in the law's reauthorization. The Committee should repeal the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, and provide that men with restraining orders against them can still possess department-issued firearms for the purposes of their employment. The principle of ensuring that police officers are of solid character is a good one. What is lacking in current law is a reasonable standard for punitive action. The findings of police department investigations and criminal convictions are reasonable standards. The issuance of restraining orders is not.

Report from here

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Friday, July 29, 2005


In March 1950, Timothy Evans was convicted and hanged in England for the murder of his baby daughter, Geraldine. The court did not proceed with a second charge of the murder of his wife. During the trial, the dull-witted Evans insisted his wife and daughter had been murdered by "the other man" living in the house at 10 Rillington Place, London. "The other man" was John Reginald Halliday Christie, one of the main witnesses for the prosecution. The trial judge complimented Christie for "his clarity of evidence" during the trial. Three years after Evans had been executed, Christie confessed to murdering eight women in England between 1940 and 1953. One of them was Evans' wife. Christie was convicted and hanged at Pentonville Prison on July 15, 1953.

In 1966 the British Government granted Timothy Evans a posthumous pardon in recognition of his innocence. But the Evans case is not the only miscarriage of justice under British law where an innocent man has been executed.

In 1819, Thomas Harris, landlord of the Rising Sun Inn, on the York-Newcastle road, was executed for murder. It was later established that the barman at the inn and chief prosecution witness was the actual killer, and Harris had been innocent. The posthumous pardon awarded to Harris did not ameliorate the travesty of justice.

In March 1835 an Irish peddler, Daniel Savage, was sentenced to death for the murder of his wife 10 years earlier. After having his beard shaved off to "make the hangman's job easier", he was allowed a final visit from his sister. The woman looked at the condemned prisoner, completely baffled, saying, "He's not my brother ... he doesn't look anything like my brother!" There was not enough time to investigate the woman's claim before the man was led to the scaffold and hanged. The sister had been correct. The man who had gone to his death was innocent. His name was Edmund Pine. Not Daniel Savage.

In the same month, another innocent man was executed in England. Edward Poole Chalker was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a gamekeeper. He was led to the gallows protesting his innocence. Seven years later another man confessed to the crime. Chalker, like Pine, had been innocent.

Unlike Harris, Pine and Chalker, William Habron survived the death cell and the gallows. Habron was sentenced to death in 1876 for the murder of a London police officer, but because of his youth the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Three years later, while Habron was serving his life sentence, a notorious criminal, Charles Pearce, confessed to the murder. William Habron received a pardon and œ800 compensation from the British Government.

In 1909, Oscar Slater was sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly woman in Glasgow but like Habron, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. After he had served 19 years in prison, it was established that Slater was completely innocent. He was reprieved and awarded œ6,000 compensation.

Another Englishman who cheated the gallows, some claim by divine intervention, was John Lee. "The miracle in triplicate" occurred in Exeter, England, on February 23, 1885, when John Lee mounted the scaffold to be executed for the murder of Emma Keyse, one time maid-of-honour to Queen Victoria. The trapdoor under the scaffold failed to open. Three times John Lee mounted the scaffold. Three times the trapdoor did not function. After the third attempt, Lee was returned to the condemned cell, and his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. John Lee served 22 years in prison. After his release from prison he emigrated to the US, where he married and never re-offended. He died in 1933.

The Australian legal system is not immune from the same miscarriages of justice.

* New South Wales, 1947. Frederick McDermott was convicted of murder. He served seven years before a Royal Commission established his innocence. He was released from prison and granted a pardon for wrongful imprisonment.

* South Australia, 1978. Edward Charles Splatt was convicted of murder. He served six years before a Royal Commission established his innocence. He was released from prison and granted a pardon for wrongful imprisonment.

* NSW, 1979. Three men known as the Ananda Marga Trio - Paul Alister, Ross Dunn and Timothy Anderson were convicted of conspiracy to murder. They served seven years before a judicial inquiry into their convictions, conducted by Mr. Justice Wood in 1985, concluded they were innocent. They were released from prison and granted unconditional pardons.

* NSW, 1980. Douglas Harry Rendall was convicted of murder. Rendall served nine years before a judicial inquiry into his conviction concluded he was innocent. Rendall was released from prison and granted an unconditional pardon.

* Northern Territory, 1982. Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of murder. Served four years before a Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Mr Justice Trevor Morling concluded she was innocent. Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison, compensated for wrongful imprisonment and granted an unconditional pardon.

* Queensland, 1983. Barry Mannix was accused of murdering his father at Surfers Paradise. After allegations Queensland police fabricated Mannix's confession to the murder, three other men were arrested and confessed to the crime. Barry Mannix was immediately released from prison.

* Queensland, 1984. Kelvin Condren was convicted of murder. He served six years before the High Court of Australia and the Queensland Court of Criminal Appeal cast serious doubts on the conviction and his alleged confession. After examining the evidence, Queensland Attorney-General Deane Wells recommended Condren's release from prison. Condren was set free in 1990.

* NSW, 1990. Roger Graham Bawden, surrendered himself to Queanbeyan police and confessed to a murder he committed in 1973. Another man, Johann Ernst Siegfried (Ziggy) Pohl, had been convicted of the murder and had already served over ten years in prison. The murder of Kum Yee "Joyce" Pohl at Queanbeyan became the subject of a special judicial inquiry which cleared Ziggy Pohl of the murder. Pohl was freed from prison and granted an unconditional pardon.

More here

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Thursday, July 28, 2005


A litle matter of imprisonment without trial included

The ordeal is finally over, but for the past year, a North Carolina family has been torn apart after state officials claimed family photos of a father kissing his baby's belly button were some kind of child abuse. It began when Teresa Hamaty took impromptu party snapshots of her husband, Charbel, playfully embracing their naked, newborn son, Kristoff.

After dropping the film off at an Eckerd store in North Raleigh, authorities were notified. "You see the back of the baby, and like if someone is kissing the baby's belly button," Teresa told WRAL-TV. But police saw the worst and arrested Teresa for taking sexually explicit photos, charged her husband with felony sexual assault, and put Kristoff and his half-sister in protective custody. "It was a nightmare," Charbel said, after spending half a year in jail.

Teresa took months fighting to gain back custody of her children. "I think this was one of those times that they got the wrong people," Teresa said. "They were too quick to judge when they took one look at my husband." Dozens of Hamaty supporters showed up for court appearances, claiming police overreacted. They raised some $140,000 in legal and living expenses for the Hamatys. "[It] makes me feel, that's it - that's why I have to be strong for - to show everybody what the truth is," Charbel told the station.

The charges eventually were dropped when a report submitted by an expert said there was no criminal intent in the pictures. "I hate cameras," Charbel now says. "I don't like taking pictures."

Report here

INDIA: The man time forgot

A villager in India's north-eastern state of Assam has been released from prison after 54 years behind bars without a trial. Machang Lalung, 77, was arrested in his village of Silsangi in 1951. Police said that Mr Lalung, from the Lalung tribe, was charged with "causing grievous hurt". A conviction usually results in 10 years' imprisonment. But police said there was no evidence, so within a year of his arrest he was transferred to a psychiatric institution.

"It seems the police just forgot about him thereafter," said an Assamese human rights activist, Sanjay Borbora. Mr Lalung cannot remember life before prison.

In 1967 authorities at the institution certified Mr Lalung fully fit and decided to release him. But police then sent him to another jail. "Even at this point, the police did not send him to court to face trial; they just kept him in prison," Mr Borbora said. Strangely, even Mr Lalung's relatives forgot about him.

Last year, human rights activists in Assam brought his case to the attention of the National Human Rights Commission, which took up the case immediately and sought his release. He was finally freed last week after paying a token personal bond of one rupee (two cents).

Report here

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Using "evidence" gained under hypnosis! Hypnotic subjects have great imaginations!

Despite continued pleas of his innocence, Robert Baltovich will face a new trial in the alleged killing of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain. The 22-year-old Bain disappeared in June, 1990, and has never been found. Baltovich has been out on bail since 2000, when his appeal was launched. The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned Baltovich's conviction last December....

Because the original conviction was made in 1992, it will be far more difficult for the prosecution to present a strong case for Baltovich's guilt. "This is going to be a very tough fight for the prosecution," legal analyst Steven Skurka told CTV Newsnet. He says the crown's key witness was put under hypnosis in order to identify Baltovich, because her memory of seeing him with Bain before she vanished was so poor. "She couldn't remember anything. And that was years ago when the first trial took place. So the mountain is going to be much icier for the prosecution to climb. This is going to be a very tough case."

Baltovich was released after spending eight years in prison, during which time he became a cause for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. In the court's appeal decision, the crown's case was determined to be largely superficial, and consisted of "three bodies of evidence: opportunity, motive, and after-the-fact conduct indicative of guilt." But the appeal was granted largely because of the trial judge's charge to the jury, which was deemed to be prejudicial against Baltovich. "The charge to the jury was unfair and unbalanced. It also contained significant errors of law that were prejudicial to the appellant," the decision reads.

However, the evidence against Baltovich was enough for the Ontario Court of Appeal to decide he must face another trial. Baltovich's lawyers have argued it could have been Paul Bernardo who killed Bain, and they will likely use the same argument again. Skurka said that Bernardo was familiar with the area where Bain disappeared, the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, and may have even known her. "He lived in Scarborough before and he lived there after the murder," Skurka said. "So there is evidence to connect him to her and to potentially the crime. And you can be sure that Robert Baltovich's lawyers are going to be doing everything they can to properly bring him into the case."

At the time, Bernardo was raping women in the area and was known as the Scarborough Rapist. Bernardo, currently facing life in prison for the torture and killings of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, has reportedly denied killing Bain.

Report here

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005


More than 20 families claiming to be the victims of State negligence or corruption will gather today at the nightclub owned by the McBrearty family in Donegal. Frank McBrearty Jnr, who is taking legal action against the State claiming false imprisonment following his arrest on suspicion of murder, says he has received calls from all over the country and believes this will be the beginning of a major movement.

The families meeting today have different stories - relatives who died in car crashes, some players involved in the Morris Tribunal and at least one man who claims to be the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice. All claim, however, to be either victims of negligence or corruption by State agencies, including the gardai [police]. There is also a feeling among many that their concerns have been ignored at the highest level.

Organisers also want to reach out to others who may not be able to attend today's meeting. These include the Rossiter family from Clonmel, whose son died a couple of days after being discovered unconscious in a garda cell and Jackie and Sheila Lyons, whose late son Dean wrongly spent seven months in jail after apparently signing a confession to the murder of two elderly women in north Dublin in 1997.

One key demand, said Mr McBrearty, will be that the new Garda Ombudsman should have the same powers as the one in the North. Mr McBrearty, who confronted Justice Minister Michael McDowell at the McGill Summer School in the Glenties earlier this week, said: "I've been getting calls on a daily basis from people across Ireland who are the victims of corruption. We are going to meet today to decide a plan of action but we will organise a date for a public meeting at the end of August. After that we will organise a public rally in Dublin."

Up to 50 people are expected to gather in the nightclub in Raphoe. A number of those who will attend the meeting have relatives who died in car crashes which, it is claimed, were not properly investigated. Sean Farren, whose daughter Sinead McDaid died in June 2001, said there are serious questions surrounding the case, including an alleged failure to preserve the scene or begin an investigation to find out what caused the crash. Mr Farren blames loose chippings left on the road following roadworks and inadequate signage.


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Monday, July 25, 2005


How lucky do you have to be for the real offender come forward voluntarily?

The family of a Liverpool man accused of attempted murder in Bulgaria hope he will soon be freed after another man admitted carrying out the attack. Michael Shields, 18, of Wavertree, faces 20 years in jail if convicted of attacking a barman with a brick. Mr Shields, who visited Bulgaria after watching Liverpool FC win the Champions League, went on trial on Thursday. But a solicitor for electrician Graham Sankey, 20, of Anfield, has said he has admitted responsibility for the attack. "His conscience has told him that he must take these steps to end the agony that Michael and his family have been going through for these past few horrendous weeks," said Wirral-based lawyer David Kirwan in a statement.

"Reading about Michael appearing in a Bulgarian court left him with no alternative but to come forward and admit his part in the events of that night. "My client is prepared to stand trial only in Britain and to accept the consequences". Mr Kirwan added that Mr Sankey's parents had received threats in recent days but were standing by their son.

A Bulgarian court in Varna was told on Thursday that barman Martin Georgiev, 25, had suffered a fractured skull and may have brain damage after being hit on the head with a brick by a Liverpool fan. Mr Shields was one of many Liverpool supporters holidaying at the Golden Sands resort after watching their team beat AC Milan in the Champions League Final in Istanbul in May. He has always denied the charge, saying he was asleep in bed when the alleged incident took place in the early hours of 30 May.

Another fan, Anthony Wilson, 19, from Edge Hill, Liverpool, denies charges of hooliganism and possessing drugs.

Mr Shields' uncle, Joey Graney, who has flown out to Bulgaria to be with him, told the BBC he was "very happy" about the development. "It is a great relief for us - I'd love to go to that prison and say 'Get him out, that kid's innocent'," he said. "We've just got to wait. Hopefully the British Consulate will get Michael out as soon as possible and home, where he belongs."

In Liverpool, there has been a campaign for Mr Shield's freedom with banners on the street where he lives proclaiming his innocence. Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman, said the trial should now be halted. "The trial is due to be resumed on Monday. I am now calling for it to be halted in the wake of what has now happened," she said. "The truth must come out and all possible witnesses should be called to give evidence. This is a very significant development and it is time for the full story to be told. "It would be a miscarriage of justice and a travesty of justice as well for the trial to proceed without consideration of this new development."

Report here

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mickleberg case still ongoing

Damages being sought against corrupt police and officials now that they have been exonerated

A group of former Western Australian police officers have been told to attend court hearings related to a compensation claim against them by the Mickelberg brothers. Ray and Peter Mickelberg are suing the state of WA, the former officers and the estate of two detectives who have died over their wrongful conviction for the 1982 Perth Mint swindle.

The matter was the subject of a brief hearing in the Supreme Court today at which the lawyer for the officers was told they are required to attend at least one hearing.

Outside the court, Peter Mickelberg said the rules require the defendants to turn up at court. "Isn't it interesting that the only person who turned up was Tony Lewindowski's representative of his estate," he said. "His son who was a baby when all this occurred. I think it's interesting that he's the only one who turned up."

Report from here

Some background:

A former police officer has admitted that he and another detective lied and faked evidence during the trial of the Mickelberg brothers for the Perth Mint gold swindle 20 years ago. The West Australian Attorney-General, Jim McGinty, said yesterday that Anthony Lewandowski had given an affidavit to the Director of Public Prosecutions admitting he and the former CIB chief Don Hancock, who was murdered last year, had lied and fabricated evidence to convict the Mickelbergs.
Raymond, Peter and Brian Mickelberg were convicted in 1983 of swindling $650,000 worth of gold from the mint. Raymond, a former SAS soldier, was released from jail in 1991 after serving eight years of a 20-year sentence. Peter served six years of a 14-year sentence. Brian Mickelberg had his conviction overturned after nine months in jail. He died in a helicopter crash in 1986.

Raymond and Peter Mickleberg made four unsuccessful attempts to have their convictions overturned - three appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal, at which Mr Lewandowski and Mr Hancock testified, and an appeal to the High Court.

Mr McGinty said Mr Lewandowski had admitted that he and Mr Hancock had fabricated confessions from the brothers, and had lied at the trial and the appeals. He had also admitted that Peter Mickelberg was stripped naked and beaten by interviewing officers during the investigation. Mr Lewandowski had said he had not come forward earlier because he had not wanted to cross Mr Hancock, who died in a car bombing in what police believe was a payback killing by Gypsy Joker bikie gang members after the murder of a gang member in 2000. Mr McGinty said Mr Lewandowski's belated admission - if it were truthful - would strike at the heart of public confidence in the justice system. "This is one of the most high-profile police investigations we have seen in Western Australia, and if it was found that convictions were obtained by police fabricating evidence, the ramifications are enormous."

Mr McGinty has referred Mr Lewandowski's affidavit to the royal commission into alleged police corruption, which is due to recommence hearings on July 1. The robbery on June 22, 1982, was the most audacious ever staged in Perth - an ingenious swindle which saw 49 gold bars spirited out of the impregnable Mint to a mystery hiding place. Although the evidence against the Mickelbergs was compelling - in particular Ray Mickelberg's fingerprint on one of three fake cheques used to pay for the gold - the brothers insisted from the start that the police had framed them. They said the detectives, led by Don Hancock, had lied at their trial in the District Court, had fabricated confessions by all three, and had planted the damning fingerprint. It would have been easy for the police to get hold of a mould of Ray's finger, they said. One of his hobbies was casting hands, in brass, plastic, rubber and perspex. There were about 20 of the hands in his Marmion Beach home when the police first arrived, and several were taken away for inspection.

In 1989, 55 kilograms of gold pellets, said to have been from the swindle, were found outside a Perth television station, accompanied by a note protesting the Mickelberg brothers' innocence and claiming that a prominent Perth businessman was behind the swindle.

Above report from 2002 found here

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

A case study in unfair treatment

He was the golden boy of the Australian alternative medicine industry, a brilliant doctor with an internationally best-selling health book, his own radio show and a booming practice with a nine-month waiting list. He attracted patients from across the country, as well as from the US, Britain and Asia. He appeared regularly on TV and in newspapers and magazines, spreading his word. Then a seriously mentally ill woman walked into John Harrison's Sydney surgery and, within a year, had completely destroyed his life. Although she'd previously accused three psychiatrists of having raped her, had threatened to burn down another practitioner's rooms and had been stalking Harrison's family, a complaint by her started a process that ended in him being struck off the medical register for life.

His glittering career was over, his stressed wife miscarried the child they were expecting, they lost their home and many of their friends, and he was made bankrupt after being sued in the Supreme Court of NSW for damages.

But today serious doubts are surfacing about the validity of his conviction and, as a result, the spotlight is turning increasingly fiercely on the efficacy of healthcare complaints processes nationwide, particularly in the light of Jayant Patel's reign at Bundaberg Hospital, during which he was linked to more than 80 deaths.

Yet it's in NSW that the chorus of dissatisfaction with the system is the loudest. After three inquiries, the bungled investigation into 19 deaths at Camden and Campbelltown hospitals, and representations to politicians over Harrison's case, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission and the NSW Medical Tribunal are being widely condemned. "It's a star chamber, set up for politicians to avoid their responsibilities," rages Michael Gliksman of the Australian Medical Association's medical practice committee. "It reminds one of the Salem witch trials."

Says Brad Frankum, director of medicine at Macarthur and conjoint associate professor at the University of NSW: "It is difficult to trust [the HCCC] to perform a fair, thorough and reasonable investigation of any doctors."

While everyone agrees it is important to have a strong complaints process to protect patients against bad doctors, the problems with the NSW system are that it - alone among the states - follows a prosecutorial agenda against doctors. Everywhere else in Australia, there are varying levels of attempts to adjudicate and mediate between a doctor and a complainant before it is taken any further. The NSW system is historically a hangover from the Chelmsford deep-sleep scandal linked to 231 deaths 25 years ago, with politicians determined to establish a system that could prevent such evil happening again. As a result, the HCCC investigates complaints, appoints the peer reviewers and expert witnesses, then prosecutes them in the Medical Tribunal where, startlingly, there are no rules of evidence and doctors are required to prove their innocence rather than have a plaintiff prove their guilt. And in a surgery where there's only one doctor and one patient in the room, making it one person's word against the other's, that's almost impossible.

"They investigate, they prosecute and they appoint people as part of the judging panel," says Ann Daniel, the former head of the school of sociology at the University of NSW. "In terms of legal justice it's quite a bastard of a system."

Gliksman agrees. "Doctors are guilty unless they can prove their innocence, which is very difficult to do in a system where there's bias in the investigation and there's no procedural fairness in that there are no rules of evidence. With hearsay admitted as evidence, they can accept the meanderings of a clairvoyant or pick over chicken entrails if they want. There can also be selective gathering of documents, selective presentation of documents and biased selection of peer reviewers. The bias is demonstrable."

Harrison's case is, sadly, perhaps the perfect example. The female patient complaining against him was described by her psychiatrist at the tribunal as suffering borderline personality disorder, a serious psychiatric condition that in men can produce psychopaths. As her evidence constantly shifted, the psychiatrist was asked if sufferers from her condition could be considered reliable. "They are reliable about the unreliability," came the response. None of the many well-documented threats made against Harrison, including letters and taped phone calls in which she'd said she was going to get him and wanted "to hurt you in a big way" were admitted as evidence. Harrison hadn't believed she would be taken seriously, but her case was bolstered by the complaints of two other women, one of whom he had not seen for eight years and the other he had not seen for five years.

Both had even been back to him for treatment after the incidents they were alleging had happened. One woman's evidence was dismissed as she confessed she had made sexual overtures towards the doctor, which he had rebuffed; the complaint of the other woman was upheld. In the tightly controlled hearing, there was little room to explore the curious way the two women had suddenly come forward from the past to complain about Harrison shortly after the first complaint was lodged. Those two women have since admitted, however, that they were persuaded to complain by the sick woman and her helper at the HCCC. Both say they would never have complained otherwise. They supported the original complaint after they were contacted and told that Harrison had molested a number of women and it was their public duty to speak out against him on those women's behalf. The HCCC later confirmed that there never were any other women. "For some reason I think I was told there were 17 people who'd made a complaint about him, which was a lot," says one of the women. "I think I was too tranced out, spaced out, to even know what I was doing."

And the other one tells a remarkably similar story. "I talked to X on the phone and she said there'd be about 16 people, but no one has come forward and we need them to come forward so that something can be done about [Harrison]," she says. "That's when I got into my, 'Oh my god, this man is harming people, I can't let this happen', so I got into my, 'let's save the world' mode. That's how I got suckered into it [complaining]." She admits to having a two-hour telephone conversation with the first woman before agreeing to complain. She now says she bitterly regrets it.

Many experts say the only way such a system is allowed to continue is because most people would never believe it exists. "Such a dysfunctional system serves neither the doctors nor protects the public, but I think politically it's protected by the fact that people don't believe such a thing would ever exist in Australia today," Gliksman says. "Such a system makes it inevitable that innocent people will be found guilty." Judge Patricia Staunton has also said in the past: "They trample all the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness."

Of course, while no one can say with absolute certainty that Harrison is innocent, since none of us can know what happened in his surgery, no one is well-served by a system that can't properly distinguish between good and bad doctors and, indeed, between good and bad patients. And when Australia is facing a looming shortage of doctors, and studies have found 30 per cent to 40 per cent of doctors say they wouldn't choose the profession if they had their time again because of worries over complaints, everyone agrees it's important to have the best - and most demonstrably fair - complaints investigation and resolution system possible.

Psychiatrist Yolande Lucire, a high-profile and long-time critic of the system, is adamant it needs to be changed. "My colleagues who have had experience of the complaints process at any level would attest that it is indeed the case that an accused doctor has less legal protection than a recidivist criminal," she says.

Report here

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Friday, July 22, 2005


For the past decade, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a reauthorization hearing today, has been a nearly $ 1 billion-dollar-a-year tax-supported industry based upon fatal flaws in three areas: (A) conception, (B) discrimination, and (C) administration.

(A) Conceptually, Domestic Violence (DV) programs are predicated on the false presumption men always are the predatory perpetrators and women always the innocent victims. By contrast, the strongest and most consistent finding in decades of worldwide empirical DV research is that both men and women initiate DV at about equal rates and men are at least one-third of the physically harmed victims. A second conceptual fatal flaw is that the only solution to DV is to break up the family and isolate men rather than provide social and counseling services to reunite families that can be rehabilitated.

(B) VAWA operates at such a high level of blatant sex discrimination it could not pass muster under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs. VAWA application forms explicitly state programs providing services for men need not apply. Nor are there requirements that women (who initiate one-half of the disputes) take anger management classes to work out their differences equitably with men.

(C) Tragically, the VAWA administration also seems to have fallen under the control of gender superiority ideologues who misuse tax dollars to destroy families. These tax dollars also are used to institute "must arrest" policies where a parent (almost always the father) must be arrested during a domestic dispute even when there is no physical contact and even over the objection of the other parent. These tax dollars would be better spent providing counseling for both parents.
So, what to do?

There is a wide range of views among members of Congress who soon must vote on the reauthorization of VAWA -- as well as the general public. For those with concerns about VAWA, there are but two choices: sunset or rewrite. My view is VAWA is so harmful to children and fathers it should be sunsetted.

--Interestingly, while many members of Congress are fearful of a women's backlash if they vote for sunset, they appear oblivious to a growing men's backlash vote. Republicans, in particular, seem to forget they owe their political ascension to overwhelming support from males and their spouses.

Further, there is some evidence the women's block vote is less unified than it once was. The first comes from the small turnout to elect Gloria Steinem as president of NOW. The second is more elusive but surfaces as multiple fissures on multiple issues in heterosexual women who appear to be at a crossroads on women's issues. For VAWA, the critical question will be whether heterosexual women want to support a program that may destroy the lives of men in their family of origin (grandfathers, uncles, fathers, brothers, cousins) as well as current relationships (husband, boyfriend, friends, coworkers).

On the other hand, rewriting VAWA to correct fatal flaws will be a daunting task with a very short time line. Below are a few examples of required changes.

* First, and most critically, allegations of DV should be tried in criminal court with the protection of due process. If the allegations are unsubstantiated, the focus should be on family preservation and counseling services. If the allegations are substantiated, rehabilitation services should be considered.

* Second, following Title IX, sex discrimination must be eliminated throughout and the focus should be on victim need.

* Third, everyone should "follow the money." Administratively, it seems past VAWA funds have flowed to groups espousing a gendered political agenda. Two groups conspicuously absent from funding are men's programs and religious institutions. Religious institutions, along with the family, traditionally have been considered as bedrock social institutions. In my view, religious institutions should expand their ministries to meet two currently underserved but dramatically evident family needs: DV and divorce. While men's shelters and religious organizations lack a track record because of past discrimination, they should be considered on an equal footing with existing providers. Indeed, if reauthorized, a new mechanism must be established for fair distribution of VAWA monies on the basis of victim need.

* Finally, for a comprehensive understanding of VAWA, two Web sites provide fine-grained analyses and excellent critiques: ( and ( Both should be required reading for members of Congress as well as the interested public.


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Thursday, July 21, 2005

MARVELLOUS NEWS: Professor Sir Roy Meadow struck off

Professor Sir Roy Meadow, once Britain's most eminent paediatrician, was today found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the medical register for giving misleading evidence at a murder trial.

The General Medical Council said that Professor Meadow, 72, had "abused his position as a doctor" and "seriously undermined" the position of all doctors evidence in trials by using misleading statistics in the murder trial of Sally Clark in 1999.

Mary Clark-Glass, the chairwoman of the fitness to practise panel of the GMC said Professor Meadow's errors were compounded by his importance in the field of children's health. Addressing Professor Meadow, Mrs Clark-Glass said today: "Your misguided belief in the truth of your arguments, maintained throughout the period in question, and indeed, throughout this inquiry, is both disturbing and serious. "It is because of your eminence and authority that this misleading evidence carried such great weight."

Professor Meadow was the head of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and was knighted for "services to child health" in 1998. The three-week hearing that delivered its judgment today turned on statistics used by Professor Meadow at the trial of Mrs Clark, a solicitor from Cheshire, who was accused of murdering her two baby sons, Christopher and Harry. Mrs Clark was found guilty after Professor Meadow said that there was only a 1 in 73 million chance that both her children died of natural causes - a statistic that was later disputed by the original author of the research, and by the Royal Statistical Society.

In his evidence, Professor Meadow also described his much disputed "Meadow's Law" on cot deaths that "One in a family is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder". He also compared the chances of Mrs Clark's babies dying of natural causes to "winning the jackpot" and unlikely odds in horse racing.

Mrs Clark spent two years in prison, and was eventually acquitted. Although her conviction was quashed because of mistakes made in the pathologists' examination of her children, at her appeal, judges cited the highly persuasive evidence of Professor Meadow as a factor in her conviction. Professor Meadow also gave evidence in the trials of Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony, two other mothers who were convicted, and later acquitted, of murdering their children.

On Wednesday, the GMC panel ruled that Professor Meadow had misled the jury at Mrs Clark's trial, but not intentionally. Today, the panel said the consequences of his mistakes "cannot be underestimated". During the hearing Professor Meadow admitted that his use of statistics and racing analogies was "insensitive".

Today the family of those whom Professor Meadow helped convict said justice had been done. "I certainly think that he deserved to be struck off the medical register because of what he did to my daughter," said Frank Lockyer, the father of Mrs Clark, who brought the complaint against Professor Meadow that culminated in today's verdict.

More here

Theodore Dalrymple has defended Prof. Meadow but his defence amounts to no more than passing the buck as far as I can see.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Ronnie Lee Bowling sits on death row at the Kentucky State Penitentiary for two murders he claims he didn't commit -- convicted in part through forensic analysis that scientific experts now say is deeply flawed. No eyewitnesses or direct physical evidence tied him to the execution-style slayings of two gas station attendants in Laurel County a month apart in 1989. There were no fingerprints, no DNA. But at Bowling's trial, an FBI examiner testified that tests showed some of the .38-caliber bullets recovered from both bodies -- and from bullets in an attempted murder at a third station in Rockcastle County -- came from the same batch of lead.

More crucially, FBI Special Donald Havekost said, they matched some of the cartridges found in Bowling's mobile home. Havekost told the jury he'd never seen a bullet match in crimes that weren't related. Asked about the likelihood of finding another bullet matching Bowling's, Havekost said, "I'd spend a good part of my life looking and probably never find it." But last year, a National Research Council panel found that FBI examiners repeatedly had failed to tell juries that such bullet matches might be mere coincidence. The bureau responded by suspending lead analysis, which it had used in 2,500 cases over 40 years. Then in March, the first conviction in the nation was reversed based on concerns about the reliability of bullet-lead analysis. Ordering a new trial for a man convicted in New Jersey of murder, an appeals court said "the integrity of the criminal justice system is ill-served by allowing a conviction based on evidence of this quality … to stand."

The prosecutor in the Kentucky case said there was plenty of other evidence to convict Bowling, now 36. But Bowling is staking his life on the argument that he wouldn't have been convicted without that forensic evidence -- arguing on appeal that the new disclosures about such testing demand that he get a new trial. "If there is any truth and justice in this country, my wrongful conviction shouldn't be allowed to stand," he said in a two-hour interview at the penitentiary, where he has been held since Dec. 24, 1992, for the murders of Ronald L. Smith, 28, and Marvin Hensley, 48.

After a yearlong study, a research council panel reported in February 2004 that FBI analysts repeatedly overstated the significance of bullet-lead matches and underplayed the likelihood of a false match. "FBI examiners should not rely on bullet lead analysis to testify in criminal cases about the statistical probabilities that a crime-scene bullet originated with the defendant," concluded the report of the Washington-based council, the operating arm of the private, nonprofit National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.

Bowling cited that report and other attacks on bullet-lead testing in motions seeking a new trial that he's filed in Laurel Circuit Court and U.S. District Court in London. No execution date is pending, although he is entering the last phase of his appeals. One of his lawyers, Vince Aprile, likened bullet analysis to hypnosis and Victorian-era phrenology -- the abandoned belief that intelligence could be determined by the shape of the head. Aprile said the national council's report "exposes it as an insidious endeavor to clothe biased speculation in the impressive robes of science."

But relatives of the victims say Bowling is just grasping for straws. And former Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Handy, who won Bowling's conviction and has since retired, said, "I don't have any doubt that he was the perpetrator." Handy concedes that bullet evidence was important to his case -- he told the jury in his closing statement that the trial came down to "cold, analytical facts … tested by an FBI agent." But he said that stronger proof came from Ricky Smith, owner of the third station, a Sunoco in Rockcastle County. Smith, who is not related to Ronald Smith, testified that three days after Hensley was murdered, Bowling came into his station and opened fire, then fled, leading police on a 32-mile chase that ended with Bowling's capture outside his home in Clay County.

State police who pursued him later found a gun along the road and determined, through traditional ballistics testing, that it was the same weapon used in the murders. Bowling claimed that he hadn't shot at Ricky Smith and that the gun wasn't his. Bullets found at the Sunoco station were too mangled for conventional ballistics tests, in which marks on bullets from the crime scene are compared with marks on test bullets fired from the same gun.

That is where Havekost came in. He testified that one of the bullets from the Sunoco station had the same chemical makeup as five of the bullets found in a partially filled box of ammo at Bowling's home, meaning, he said, that they originated from the same manufacturer's batch of bullet lead. He also said that one bullet from each of the two murders matched and that three of the bullets that killed the second victim, three of the bullets found at the scene of the third shooting, and 16 of the 24 bullets found in Bowling's home all matched.

The FBI did bullet-lead analysis in cases where no weapon was found or where ballistics analysis was impossible. Since 1986, five examiners testified 521 times about bullet-lead tests, the bureau has said, although it's also said it doesn't know where or against whom. The Washington-based Forensic Justice Project, part of the nonprofit National Whistleblower Center, has sued the FBI to get that information, contending the government won't release it for fear it might trigger hundreds of new trials. No one knows how many times bullet-lead analysis has been presented in Kentucky courts, but it figured in the case against Shane Ragland, whose conviction for the murder of a former football player was reversed on other grounds last year by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Another defendant, Tyron Anton Wilcox, was acquitted of murder in a 2002 trial in Jefferson County in which an FBI examiner presented bullet-matching evidence.

In an interview, Havekost, who retired from the FBI soon after Bowling's trial and now lives in Nebraska, said that if he'd been asked, he would have testified that many people could have bought matching bullets in a rural area like Laurel County. But nobody asked, he said.....

But Bowling said there is nothing that connects him to the Laurel County crimes other than bullet-lead analysis. "The link doesn't exist," he said. "They misled the jury in my trial by presenting evidence that was flawed, unreliable junk science."

More here

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005


THREE eyewitnesses ignored!

Rebecca Rengo-Kocher, a respected St. Louis social worker and psychotherapist, didn"t expect to run a nonprofit organization. But she also didn"t expect her testimony to be discounted in a recent court case. And she didn"t expect to see an innocent man sent to prison as a result.

Rengo-Kocher"s experience in the case of Guy Woolfolk compelled her to act by starting the Guy Woolfolk Trust Fund through Social Concerns, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of and addressing issues surrounding wrongful imprisonment. The organization helps low-income, at-risk individuals involved in cases of wrongful conviction. "I know Guy is innocent – he was sitting beside me in my home at the time the crime was committed," says Rengo-Kocher, referring to Guy Woolfolk, who was accused and convicted of a carjacking in 2003. Rengo-Kocher provided one of three alibis for Woolfolk, but he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison despite her testimony. "I simply couldn"t accept this outcome, and I know Guy is only one of hundreds of people who face similar situations," Rengo-Kocher says. "We like to think that our justice system is flawless, but it"s not. And it"s not right to sit by and let an innocent person go to jail in America."

Social Concerns is hosting a public, educational screening of The Hurricane at 7 p.m., Thursday, August 4th at the Regional Arts Commission located at 6128 Delmar Boulevard in the Loop. The film, starring Denzel Washington, dramatizes the life of Rubin Carter, a middleweight boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1960s. Carter was released in 1985 after nearly 20 years in prison... One Hundred percent of the money raised will go towards The Guy Woolfolk Trust Fund. Packages may be purchased by calling Kim at 314-832-2580 or Meredith at 314-726-1622.

While Social Concerns works to assist Woolfolk"s appeal, Rengo-Kocher says the organization is concerned with issues surrounding social justice and wrongful imprisonment in general. "Guy"s case inspired Social Concerns, but there is a definite need to raise awareness of these cases across the country," she says. "We don"t want another young life to be destroyed this way."


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Monday, July 18, 2005


And the judge was let off only because she was found to have legal immunity for what she did!

Pauline Hanson could not expect the Queensland Government to pay her compensation for her wrongful time in jail simply because former chief magistrate Di Fingleton will get a payout, according to Premier Peter Beattie. Both women served time in jail for unrelated matters and their convictions were subsequently overturned. However, Ms Hanson has not been compensated. Mr Beattie last week said Ms Fingleton would receive two years' "backpay" for her wrongful conviction and the six months she spent in jail. He also said she would also receive a formal apology from him and might receive lost future salary payments.

But Ms Hanson, the former One Nation leader whose wrongful conviction for electoral fraud was overturned, said the Labor Party would be seen as a "boys' club" if it awarded compensation to Ms Fingleton, a Labor supporter and worker, and not to her. Queensland Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg has said he would support any move by Ms Hanson for compensation.

Mr Beattie said yesterday Ms Hanson had legal rights and she would be entitled to take legal action on the issue if she so chooses. "But there are differences in her case despite what she said," he said. "The High Court said unanimously that Di Fingleton should never have been charged. "Now, there is no such similar finding in relation to Pauline Hanson."

Ms Fingleton had a conviction for retaliating against a witness overturned by the High Court last month. She had served six months in jail. Ms Hanson's conviction for electoral fraud was overturned on appeal in 2003.

Report here

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Sunday, July 17, 2005


The Crown is going to take another crack at trying Robert Baltovich in the disappearance 15 years ago of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Bain. The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General made the announcement yesterday, saying it did so after "very careful consideration." The move angered one of Mr. Baltovich's lawyers, James Lockyer, who said his client should be given an apology instead of a new trial. "It's going to prey on him for as long as it takes to hold this trial," Mr. Lockyer said. He said Mr. Baltovich was already once wrongfully convicted, and it was "typical" in such cases to have the appeals and new prosecutions drawn out as long as possible. "It never ends, they just never, never give in," said Mr. Lockyer, who has represented the victims of a number of high-profile cases of wrongful conviction. "They arrested an innocent man, they prosecuted an innocent man for 15 years and they should just apologize."

Mr. Baltovich was originally charged in the fall of 1990 with first-degree murder. The charge came five months after the disappearance of Elizabeth Bain, a woman with whom he'd had an occasionally rocky relationship. Her blood-stained car was found but her body has never turned up. The original trial, in which Mr. Baltovich was convicted on purely circumstantial evidence, was harshly criticized last December by the Ontario Court of Appeal and a new trial was ordered. The appellate judges accused Mr. Justice John O'Driscoll of Ontario Superior Court of being biased in his instructions to the jury. But the three-judge court also found that Mr. Baltovich could still obtain a fair trial and that a jury "could reasonably convict" him.

The Crown's decision to go ahead finally gives Mr. Baltovich, who has always professed his innocence, the chance to clear his name. But a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General said that the new charges shows they feel their case is solid. "The Crown asks whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether it's in the public interest," Brendan Crawley explained. The ministry could have instead chosen to appeal last year's decision, or done nothing.

Derek Finkle, who wrote No Claim to Mercy, a book on the Baltovich case, said yesterday he believes the chances of the Crown getting another conviction are "incredibly low." "We don't know what happened to Elizabeth Bain," he said. "We don't know why she was murdered, we don't know when she was murdered, we don't know how she was murdered." He said that the Crown will have the unenviable task of arguing its own circumstantial case while also trying to discredit the defence's equally circumstantial case pointing to serial killer Paul Bernardo as the real culprit.

(The idea that the suspect then known as the Scarborough Rapist could have been responsible for Ms. Bain's disappearance was dismissed at the time by police, because that suspect was not believed to have killed anyone. As recently as last fall, Crown counsel dismissed the idea because there was no evidence Ms. Bain was sexually assaulted.)

"Things are looking pretty good for the Baltovich camp," said Mr. Finkle, who is also editor of TORO magazine and has written about the case for the magazine. Echoing the sentiment of Mr. Lockyer, the defence lawyer, Mr. Finkle suggested that the new charges show that certain interested parties can't seem to quit. "There's a lot of reputations on the line," he said. "Unfortunately, [Mr. Baltovich] has to go back to the same system and go through the process, which he understandably doesn't have much faith in, to clear his name."

Report here

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Saturday, July 16, 2005


Lawyer James Lockyer is slated to receive an honorary degree Monday from the province's legal regulatory body in the city that sparked his passion for defending the wrongly convicted. "On July 30, 1992, there was a conviction in your city which I took on and it just went from there," Lockyer said in a interview discussing his honorary doctorate, which he will receive from the Law Society of Upper Canada during the Call to the Bar ceremony at the London Convention Centre.

Guy Paul Morin was convicted in London of murdering nine-year-old Christine Jessop near Queensville outside of Toronto in 1984. More than two years later, with Lockyer as his lawyer, Morin was exonerated after DNA tests excluded him as a the killer.

Since then, Lockyer, a founding director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, has been involved in such high-profile cases as David Milgaard, Robert Baltovich, James Driskell, Clayton Johnson and Romeo Phillion. He also is involved in the case of Steven Truscott, who at 14 in 1959 was convicted and sentenced to death in Huron County for the sex slaying of 12-year-old Lynne Harper. The Guelph millwright is waiting with Lockyer for his court date before the Ontario Court of Appeal.

More here

Brief review of the Truscott case: Typical police arrogance at work

THE POLICE INVESTIGATION: It took the police only 24 hours after Lynn Harper's body was found to arrest Steven Truscott. No other suspects were seriously investigated. The police records indicate that there was no attempt to check police records or military records for known sex offenders.

TIME OF DEATH: If there was one thing that convinced the jury of Steven Truscott's guilt, it was the medical evidence. The medical doctors who testified for the prosecution spoke with a certitude that left no room for doubt in the minds of the jury, testifying with inspired confidence that Lynn Harper had died during the half-hour or so that she'd been with Steven Truscott. But the fifth estate uncovered evidence that indicated otherwise.

THE INJURIES: Doctors testified that Lynn Harper was a victim of a "blind, violent rape." The jury was undoubtedly influenced by their graphic description of the extent of her injuries. They also testified that Steven Truscott had huge lesions on his penis. But how accurate was their testimony?

JOCELYN GAUDET'S STORY: Jocelyn Gaudet, a classmate, claimed that on the day before the murder, Truscott had made a secret date to meet her in the bush ... suggesting that his teenage hormones were on the boil.The alleged date would become crucial evidence against him -- painting Truscott as boy on the prowl, desperate to lure any girl he could. But how credible was Gaudet?

GORD LOGAN: If Truscott and Lynn crossed the bridge taking Lynn north to the highway, he could not have killed her in the bush which was south of the bridge. And two witnesses insisted they saw them crossing the bridge ... riding double on his bike. One was Gordon Logan who was 12, fishing in the river. He told police he looked up and saw Steven and Lynn ride by.

Later, when it became crucial to Steven's alibi, the police said he made it up to protect his friend ... that the bridge was too far away to see anybody on it clearly. But the fifth estate discovered police records indicating the opposite.

PHILIP BURNS STORY: Of the dozen of children and adults on the county road that hot June evening, nobody could reliably place Steven in or near the bush where Lynn's body was later found. Then the police introduced some interesting reverse logic ... to prove that Steven and Lynn had gone into the bush, they only had to prove that at some point they WEREN'T on the road. Philip Burns a ten year-old boy was on the road that night and testified that he didn't meet them.

THE FOOTPRINT: The prosecution also made much of the testimony of an alleged footprint - spotted, they said, by one of the searchers, Flying Officer Glen Sage. The crown prosecutor insisted, - the evidence is clear, these were his shoes. Court testimony showed that the - marks -- not even footprints -- were never matched by the police to Truscott's shoes - or any shoes for that matter.

THE BICYCLE TRACK MARK: The prosecution claimed that bicycle tire marks found near the bush were "similar" to Steve's bike. But those marks were probably a month old. The pictures show the ground was parch dry and it had not rained in a month.

More here

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Friday, July 15, 2005


More jailhouse testimony extorted and then believed by gullible courts

A Quebec man who spent more than 20 years in prison for first-degree murder will have his case reviewed. The federal minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, has intervened in Andre Tremblay's case and has referred it to the Quebec Court of Appeal. Cotler says new evidence shows the man may have been wrongfully convicted.

Tremblay, who is now 61, was released on full parole last year, and is working at a minimum-wage job in Montreal. He was convicted in 1984 of murdering Serge Fournier by setting fire to his house in July of 1982. Through all his years in prison, he continued to claim he was innocent. Now, his claim is being taken seriously.

Kerry Scullion heads the federal Criminal Conviction Review Group of the Department of Justice. He says the Court of Appeal could order a new trial, substitute a verdict, or dismiss the appeal altogether. But, he says, the Justice minister would not have reopened the case unless the evidence pointed to a wrongful conviction. "The conviction was based largely on the jailhouse informant who testified that Mr. Tremblay had confessed to him the deliberate setting of a fire that ultimately killed Mr. Fournier," Scullion says.

But, he says, the informant later testified — twice — under oath that Tremblay did not confess to the murder. The informant also has said he was offered undisclosed advantages in return for testifying against Tremblay.

Report here

Judge throws out Canadian drug-trafficking case

A Montreal man accused of gangsterism and drug trafficking for the Hells Angels motorcycle club has been acquitted. A judge says the prosecution's case against Daniel Comeau was virtually non-existent.

Comeau was among a dozen people charged after a huge police investigation called Operation Apache. It targeted drug trafficking by members of the Hells Angels. Comeau's two brothers and one of his friends were also arrested. Police say they recorded 26,000 telephone conversations as part of their investigation. Eleven of those recorded converations involved Comeau, and Judge Céline Lacerte-Lamontagne says none of them was incriminating. The judge says, while the conspirators used code words to order drugs, and to set up meetings to take delivery, Comeau didn't.

Lacerte-Lamontagne says there was certainly drug trafficking going on, but there's no evidence implicating Comeau. The accused and his lawyers left the courtroom slapping each other on the back. Crown prosecutor Mathieu Paquet says there won't be an appeal. He says all the other accused in the case of Project Apache were convicted, and are serving terms in jail.

Report here

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Thursday, July 14, 2005


Only DNA evidence enabled this guy to beat false police fingerprint evidence and a false police identification

A judge freed a Roxbury man from prison yesterday after Suffolk County prosecutors acknowledged that the fingerprint used to convict him of shooting a Boston police officer seven years ago was not his. The stunning reversal occurred two days after prosecutors vowed to retry Stephan Cowans for shooting Officer Gregory Gallagher, even though newly analyzed DNA evidence showed that Cowans was not the shooter. Suffolk Assistant District Attorney David E. Meier said on Wednesday that his office would retry Cowans, relying on "compelling" evidence, including a fingerprint on a glass the shooter used.

But yesterday, Meier reversed himself, telling Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat that the fingerprint evidence used at trial did not come from Cowans. "I can conclusively and unequivocally state, your honor, that that purported match was a mistake," Meier said, based on forensic testing conducted this week.

Cowans, who had served 6 1/2 years for a shooting he insisted he did not commit, walked out of Suffolk Superior Court a free man. He became the seventh person to challenge a Suffolk County conviction successfully since 1997. Cowans, who was convicted in 1998 of shooting and wounding Gallagher in a Roxbury backyard, said he never lost hope during his years in prison, because he knew he was innocent and was confident that somehow the truth would surface. "I never thought I would never get out," the 33-year-old Roxbury man said calmly after his release, flanked by delighted relatives and lawyers. "I was one who never gave up on myself."

Boston police did the original analysis of the fingerprint lifted from a glass of water from which the shooter drank after he forced his way into a nearby house. But after Cowans's legal team presented new DNA evidence this week showing that he was not the person who drank from the glass or wore the hat and sweat shirt discarded at the scene, the district attorney's office had Boston and State Police specialists reanalyze the fingerprint. DNA analysis of evidence found at crime scenes was not routinely done at the time of Cowans's trial. Meier was told yesterday morning that the new fingerprint analysis showed that the thumbprint did not belong to Cowans, and the prosecutor contacted Cowans's lawyers.

Without comment, the judge threw out the conviction and freed Cowans. Meier said the district attorney's office has no intention of retrying Cowans "given the state of the evidence."

In a late-afternoon news conference at Boston police headquarters, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Acting Police Commissioner James M. Hussey expressed regret and embarrassment over the mistake that led to the imprisonment of an innocent man. "Seven years ago, the criminal justice system failed Stephan Cowans," Conley said. "It took seven years for that mistake to be corrected, seven years of Stephan Cowans's life that he can't get back. On behalf of the criminal justice system, we extend a sincere apology to Mr. Cowans."

Conley said there will be a thorough review of "the facts and circumstances of this case, the conviction, and the error. We cannot accept a high percentage of success as sufficient; we cannot accept being right just most of the time." The Boston Police Department has asked the International Association for Identification, the world's largest and oldest forensic group, and the FBI to make recommendations about forming an outside investigative team to review Boston police procedures for analyzing fingerprints, Hussey said....

Hussey said police officials have spoken to Gallagher, now a detective, who was among the witnesses who identified Cowans as his assailant. "He's OK, and he still feels strongly that he's made the right identification," Hussey said. Cowans was convicted in 1998 of shooting Gallagher in the buttocks with the officer's 9mm Glock service pistol. Gallagher had pursued a man acting suspiciously near Rafael Hernandez School on School Street on May 30, 1997. He scuffled with the man and lost his gun.

On Wednesday, at the request of Meier, Lauriat had agreed to suspend Cowans's sentence of 30 to 45 years in state prison, pending a defense motion for a new trial based on a DNA analysis gathered by lawyers for the New England Innocence Project. Cowans had remained in jail while his family tried to raise the $7,500 bail.

The New England Innocence Project, which had taken Cowans's case, sent evidence from his trial to a forensic DNA testing company, Orchid Cellmark in Germantown, Md. Sweat from the brim of a baseball cap lost by Gallagher's assailant in the yard was tested, as well as a sweat shirt the gunman removed in a house he forced his way into on School Street. The lab also tested saliva from the rim of a glass mug in the house used by the assailant. The DNA evidence was all from the same individual, but it didn't match Cowans's, the analysis found....

Cowans, who changed into a brown suit after he was released but still wore the striped white sneakers he had on in court, said there aren't "any words in the dictionary to explain what it was like" to spend 6 1/2 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

More here


Six months after Massachusetts agreed to compensate wrongly convicted felons, 10 former inmates who have applied for money have not received a dime, prompting their advocates to accuse Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly of putting up roadblocks. The former prisoners -- two of whom spent about 19 years each behind bars for crimes they did not commit -- have filed claims dating back to January under a law that provides a maximum of $500,000 for erroneous convictions. However, Reilly, who represents the state in such claims, appears to be adopting an adversarial approach, according to lawyers for the former inmates and lawmakers....

Maher, 44, who lives in Tewksbury and works as a late-shift mechanic for a trash company, said he would use the money to buy a house to live in with his 5 1/2-month-old son and his fiancée, who is pregnant with their second child.

He said he cannot understand why nothing appears to have happened with his claim and questioned whether the political ambitions of Reilly, a Democrat considered a likely gubernatorial candidate, could be a factor. ''He's running for governor," Maher said. ''Would [agreeing to an award] make it like he's being easy and giving away money?"

Maher is being represented by Feldman, who also filed a claim for Stephan Cowans, a Roxbury man freed from prison last year after Suffolk prosecutors acknowledged the fingerprint used to convict him of shooting a Boston police officer seven years earlier was not his. He said he was stunned when Reilly filed a motion in March to transfer Cowans's claim to a slower track in the court to obtain more information. Feldman filed court papers pointing out that Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley issued a public apology to Cowans after he was freed from prison and that Reilly was quoted in the Globe as calling Cowans's case ''just a terrible tragedy [that] never should have happened."

The judge rejected Reilly's motion to slow the process as ''inappropriate." Last month, Feldman filed a motion asking the court to grant Cowans's claim as a matter of law. Reilly filed a response in which he agreed that Cowans was entitled to an award but reserved the right to contest the amount. Feldman said Cowans desperately needs money so he can finish his training as a barber, a pursuit he took up behind bars. Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project based at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, said he is puzzled that none of the former prisoners in Massachusetts has received any money.

More here


Sir Roy Meadow, one of the country’s leading experts on child abuse, gave erroneous and misleading evidence in the trial of Sally Clark which helped to convict her of murdering her two sons, the General Medical Council ruled yesterday. A disciplinary panel found that Professor Meadow, 72, failed in his duty as an expert witness to explain the limited relevance of his findings when giving evidence in Mrs Clark’s prosecution in 1999.

The paediatrician told the solicitor’s murder trial that the chances of two babies suffering cot death within an affluent family was 1 in 73 million. In his testimony and in evidence to police, the paediatrician also referred to his much-disputed “Meadow’s law” on cot deaths — suggesting that “one in a family is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder”.

After three weeks of evidence at the GMC hearing in London, the fitness-to-practise panel ruled that some of Professor Meadow’s evidence was not balanced and was erroneous in parts. The panel will now decide whether the paediatrician’s actions amount to serious professional misconduct. If found guilty he could be struck off the medical register.

More here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Shocking Shortt story

Police fabrication of evidence in Ireland (The Garda are the Irish police). It's not only in Ireland that police can just make things up and be believed

The summer of 1992 was a strange time in north Donegal. The rural backwater was in the throes of a new cultural phenomenon: rave, and the ravers' drug of choice, ecstasy. Clubbers from all over the north-west, from Derry to Tyrone, converged on the county's nightspots for the new techno music. Donegal was, for a while at least, hip, and nowhere more so than the Point Inn on the Inishowen Peninsula, the country's biggest nightclub. Local parents, gardai, politicians and the owner of the Point Inn, Frank Shortt, were all agreed: the drug dealing would have to be stamped out. In April of that year, Shortt, a chartered accountant and restaurateur, then in his late 50s, approached a senior garda and asked that undercover officers be deployed inside the club to catch the dealers. "We knew we were being hit by this tidal wave of drugs sweeping the country. But I suppose we were a bit naive about the guards at the time," he said.

The gardai declined to fulfil Shortt's request, but launched an undercover operation the following July without his knowledge. Inspector Kevin Lennon, a rising star in the force who was later promoted to superintendent, and his most trusted officer, Detective Noel McMahon, organised three visits to the Point Inn, culminating in a highly publicised raid on the night of August 2. Lennon, then attached to Buncrana Station, declared proudly to a local paper two days later that their clampdown on the drug barons had gone down with military-style precision. "It was very major. The lads who took on the operation in question responded magnificently. No batons were used during the operation," Lennon told The Derry Journal.

Frank Shortt, millionaire pillar of the local community, now found himself charged with knowingly allowing drugs to be sold inside his nightclub. A deal, a plea bargain of sorts, was reportedly offered in return for Shortt pleading guilty in the local district court. Shortt pleaded not guilty and was sent forward for trial by jury in Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court. Shortt's lawyers at the time, it has since emerged, were confident the prosecution would fail. But between the district and circuit courts new evidence began to emerge from the gardai. Detective McMahon supplied an additional statement, detailing how he observed the nightclub boss personally witnessing drug deals going on in the Point Inn.

"Even on the eighth day of the trial, I was being told I wouldn't be going to jail," Frank Shortt told The Sunday Business Post. "And then an hour later I was being led off in handcuffs to prison." Shortt, an innocent man, whose innocence eventually would be established as fact in the appeal courts, was sentenced to three years in prison. The first six months in Mountjoy was a living hell. "He was put on antidepressants which he should never have been on and he immediately went downhill," said his wife Sally this weekend. "He went from 12 stone to nine and half stone. He was just shuffling around, his brain was in a useless state. When I visited him he was like a zombie, the drugs, the antidepressants they gave him, had left him cuckoo. I'd go into to see him, and he'd mutter, `Is that you, Sally?' I thought `he's not going to survive six months"'.

Frank Shortt would later stage a remarkable personal recovery in Mountjoy, while the detectives who pursued him would suffer an extraordinary fall from grace. On the face of it, the case they took against Shortt was cast iron, built on layers of eyewitness statements, and corroborated by circumstantial evidence. At the trial, in 1994, Detective McMahon recalled witnessing a rave in full flow, with "lots of furious dancing and people going about openly dealing in what appeared to be drugs". A former member of the Emergency Response Unit, with 20 years experience as a garda, McMahon, working undercover, said he himself bought drugs in full view of Frank Shortt. Superintendent Kevin Lennon organised for marked 10 pound notes to be used for buying the ecstasy. McMahon, the chief witness at the trial, gave evidence about recovering these notes from one of the drug dealers, a youth known as Fringe. Fringe made a statement confirming he had been selling ecstasy. And garda technical experts confirmed that drugs were indeed found in the nightclub.

Lennon and McMahon went to great lengths to record everything. McMahon in particular was a compulsive note taker, with a Nixonesque passion for recording the minutiae of his operations. And like the former US president, he made the fatal mistake of holding on to the records.

Within two years of Frank Shortt's conviction, rumours began to circulate within and outside the Garda Siochana about the activities of Lennon and McMahon. Kevin Lennon was sufficiently scared to try to get his once trusted colleague to sign a statement, declaring: "I do not have anything whatsoever against Superintendent K Lennon . . . I do not know anything that would endanger his career or that I could say about him to endanger his career. I have never known Superintendent Lennon to act illegally while participating in any operation." Lennon would later describe this as an insurance policy in the event of his colleague making allegations about him. Alongside this bizarre letter of satisfaction, Detective McMahon kept other files, one of which was headed, "Lennon shafting me."

The formerly close relationship between the two Buncrana detectives had descended into one of fear and loathing. McMahon not only refused to sign the letter, he also confided to his wife Sheenagh that "he would never let that out of his hands". "He said to me that this was the biggest mistake that Kevin Lennon made and he said that piece of paper was so important to him". This admission was also one of Noel McMahon's biggest mistakes. Three years later Sheenagh McMahon formally ended their marriage and took with her some of the incriminating memos.

When Frank Shortt finally had his day in court last May, the paper trail left by the two gardai had widened to encompass some of the wildest allegations ever levelled at members of the Garda.

Shortt's new legal team, Eoin McGonnigle SC, Des Murphy BL and solicitor John Kelly, pieced together a much wider tale of alleged corruption than merely the alleged framing of an innocent man. They did this forensically, with documents obtained on discovery and new witness statements. Sheenagh McMahon and her husband's chief informant, Adrienne McGlinchey, told the court that evidence was concocted to convict Shortt; that Det McMahon plotted to plant drugs in the Point Inn and that both he and Lennon set up bogus arms finds.

Alcohol was a recurring theme in the story. McGlinchey said she had drunk with the two gardai in Buncrana Garda Station, at a garda's home, at her home, in garda cars and one night when McMahon was so drunk that she had to drive him home. According to McGlinchey, she, along with McMahon and Lennon had driven a Garda surveillance van loaded with explosives to a disused shed in Rossnowlagh and placed the explosives there. An "arms cache" was discovered in Rossnowlagh the following day.

McGlinchey said she was given cash by McMahon to buy drugs and told to plant them in the Point Inn in Quigley's Point, Inishowen. However, she got very drunk in Lifford and failed to contact him. Sheena McMahon recalled seeing her husband, Kevin Lennon and two other officers, Tina Fowley and Brendan Joyce at their home not long before the Shortt case. Her husband told her they were doing a statement for Shortt's trial. She said Joyce was typing at the computer and Lennon was reading from her husband's notebook, saying "Leave that in" or "Take that out". A draft statement, recovered on discovery by Shortt's legal team, appeared to corroborate this story.

The judges found that this was work-in-progress on the final statement composed in McMahon's household. This statement put Shortt in the picture for the first time. Other notes, written earlier by McMahon, had failed to indicate that Shortt was present when the drug deals were happening. One of the revised statements by the detective contained a handwritten note on the back, stating, "if giving evidence -- nasty."

When pressed about this, McMahon said: "I am renown [sic] and laughed at by people that live with me for making notes. I have to make a note of everything or I will forget something. It is a habit I have." It was, in retrospect, a very bad habit. Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman scathingly noted that during the detective's three visits to the Point Inn, McMahon, the self-proclaimed compulsive note taker, had not once made a record in his notes about seeing Frank Shortt witnessing drug deals.

So why did he hold on to these highly incriminating notes? Hardiman suggested that Lennon and McMahon's mutual suspicion of one another led them down this dangerous path of compulsive record keeping. "The statement annotated by the superintendent, and the Advice on Proofs which throws light on the annotations, were in the nature of insurance for McMahon if it were ever suggested that he had invented the additional evidence `of his own motion'. It implicated his superior as well as himself," Hardiman said.

The account of the two marked 10 pound notes was found to be patently spurious. Fringe, the drug dealer allegedly found with the notes and drugs, was searched by gardai outside the nightclub and no drugs or money were found at that stage. He was not questioned about the marked notes in Buncrana Garda Station. The marked notes were later found in his jacket the next day. In his statement to gardai, he said he was given two 10 pound notes from what turned out to be an undercover garda and then paid this money to another dealer to obtain the drugs. So it made no sense that he still had the cash in his possession. The custody record for the night that Fringe was detained in Buncrana Garda Station has gone missing. He was never charged with any offence.

The most dramatic and damning evidence of all about garda conduct during the Shortt investigation did not emerge until day four of the hearing in the Court of Criminal Appeal in May. Unknown to the lawyers for the state, Sheenagh McMahon revealed to the court that she had told the gardai in 2000 that her husband Noel had admitted to her that he had perjured himself at the original Frank Shortt trial. A statement to this effect should have been contained in the garda documents obtained on discovery by Shortt's legal team, but there was no record of it. In fact, the garda investigation team, headed by Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty, had not asked her to include this in her three statements.

Hardiman asked the state lawyers: "The question now is a very simple one; is there in any shape or form a signed or unsigned note or a mention of perjury by Mr McMahon?" Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions replied: "Not any material we have from the Carty Inquiry." Later that day, Gardai discovered that such a memo about the perjury claim did exist. This was taken from an interview on September 15, 2000 which read: "Sheenagh McMahon then spoke about the Frank Shortt case. She stated that her husband had told her that Tina Fowley nearly ruined the case in court. Noel told her that he had committed perjury in the Court. "She stated Kevin Lennon put Noel up to telling lies in the case. Sheenagh said that Tina Fowley could fill us in more on this matter. Noel told her that Frank Shortt did not deserve the sentence that he had received. "She said that Frank Shortt had gone to Superintendent Brian Kenny in Buncrana and had requested him to put gardai into the Point Inn in order to clear the place of drugs." The memorandum added: "Sheenagh McMahon stated that it was probably because of the false evidence given in the Frank Shortt case that Tina Fowley blew the whistle on the McBrearty case."

Sheenagh McMahon's evidence was corroborated by the informant Adrienne McGlinchey who said that Detective McMahon had told her that Shortt was set up, that he had told lies about the case and that he had got someone else to plant the drugs. A sister of the informant Adrienne McGlinchey told the court that Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty had told her they believed Adrienne had manipulated Det McMahon and Supt Lennon. She said Carty had also told her their allegations could never become public because of the damage it would cause the garda. "They just wanted to bury it," she told the court.

Frank Shortt said: "Nothing shocks me any more." He fears that Lennon, McMahon and Fowley -- all now suspended -- will become the fall guys in the saga, and that "a number of other gardai" will escape sanction. He and his wife Sally believe there was a political dimension to what happened, but they insist they are not bitter. "I take no pleasure in them being suspended, they have families too," said Shortt.

Report here

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