No doubt some readers will be expostulating about the apparent triumph of legal precedent over scientific evidence embodied in the rejection of this application for an inquiry into a murder conviction on the grounds that a police transcript used to assist the jury’s perception of an indistinct covert recording used as evidence in the trial had been shown to be inaccurate.
An important aspect of this case is that the detective provided his transcript in the role of so-called ‘ad hoc expert’.
What is an ‘ad hoc expert’?
This is a little complex, but I think you will find it worthwhile
to wade through a bit of explanation to get to a truly bizarre aspect of this case.
A very useful aspect of the rejection of the application is the judge’s statement regarding what, in principle, an expert report would have show for the application to be accepted.
In order to succeed, the judge explains, the application should cause him to entertain a sense of unease or disquiet regarding the applicant’s conviction. Spoiler alert: to hear the audio this page refers to unprimed, it’s best to start at the beginning!
In rejecting the application, the judge comments that the prosecution case was strong and compelling, even without the crucial phrase ‘at the start we made a pact’.
This implies that even if the application had introduced fresh evidence (which he argues it did not), it would not be enough to suggest the jury might have reached a different conclusion if they had been given a more reliable transcript.
In the rejection of the application, a great deal is made of the fact that defence accepted the words ‘at the start we made a pact’ as a valid transcription at the time of the trial, and are only opposing it now.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, this might be a good time to view the 20-minute video that puts this case study in its broader perspective.
The whole idea that this murder, which was clearly carried out by the son, might have involved any kind of cooperation from the father, came from the detective’s ‘hearing’ the words ‘at the start we made a pact’ in a covert recording.
In recent years, there has been considerable criticism of the process for re- opening cases which have been formally completed, but require review for some reason. Based on my experience with this case, I will be joining the call for a better system. I hope you will too.