Thursday, December 13, 2007

A New Zealand innocence project

Nine To Noon this morning had a fascinating interview [audio, temporary] on the New Zealand Innocence Project, which starts its inaugural conference tomorrow. For those who don't know, innocence projects work to free those who have been wrongfully convicted from prison. The movement started in the US, and focused on freeing death row inmates whose innocence could be conclusively proven due to post-trial DNA testing, but has expanded into other crimes as well. The New Zealand version will deal with any crime where innocence can be proven, but from their conference timetable, it looks as if Scott Watson and Peter Ellis are likely to be significant clients.

No matter what you think of those individual cases, this is a project you should support. While our justice system is predicated on the idea that it is better for a dozen guilty people to go free than see an innocent jailed, mistakes are clearly made. Currently, we have no backstop to catch these cases and work to correct the inevitable errors - we must rely on dogged defence lawyers, campaigning media, and wealthy individuals with a sense of conscience. Having a dedicated group to help those who can make a strong case for their innocence will improve the quality of our justice system, and reduce the likelihood of innocent people serving long terms of imprisonment for crimes they did not commit. And that is something even members of the "hang 'em high" brigade ought to support.