Monday, 29 August 2011
The wrongfully convicted John Button and Andrew Mallard joined students in the Psychology and Criminal Justice (CRI1105) unit on Friday 26 August for a guest lecture. John and Andrew shared their stories, and also their thoughts on the reforms required in the criminal justice system to prevent further miscarriages of justice.
John Button was wrongfully convicted of the manslaughter of his girlfriend, Rosemary Anderson, on 4 May 1963. He served five years of his ten-year sentence, and was released on parole. However, his name was only cleared 39 years later on 25 February 2002, when it was finally acknowledged that the serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke had been the perpetrator. Cooke, the last man to be hanged in Western Australia in 1964 for a string of other murders, had confessed to the murder minutes before his own death.
Andrew Mallard was wrongfully convicted of murdering Pamela Lawrence in her shop on 15 November 1995. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was later released from prison in early 2006 when a High Court appeal quashed the little evidence against him. He was finally exonerated on 11 October 2006, when a cold case review concluded that a man named Simon Rochford had been Pamela’s killer. The evidence that Simon committed the crime was consistent with another murder, that of Simon’s girlfriend Brigitta Dickens, which had occurred just seven weeks after Pamela’s and for which Simon was already imprisoned.
In their presentations, John and Andrew talked about the moral and ethical duties people have in their roles as police officers, lawyers and judges. They emphasised the importance of maintaining integrity when working in these positions, because of the responsibility that these professionals have with people’s lives.
Andrew noted that a lawyer or police officer’s responsibility with people’s lives extended beyond the accused and the accused’s family, to the victim and the victim’s family, who suffer continuously when there is a wrongfully convicted person insisting upon their innocence, and closure is not able to be reached.
John expressed to the students the importance of admitting a mistake has been made and trying to fix it. He pointed out that pride could sometimes come before an apology, but as the new generation of lawyers and police officers he hoped the students could learn to apologise and fix their mistakes if they ever made any, rather than try to cover them up, as was the case in his experience with the justice system.
The students were also given the opportunity to ask questions, and learn from John and Andrew’s ideas for reform in the justice system.
Nikki Rajakaruna, Psychology and Criminal Justice lecturer, organised the guest speakers as she thought they could best teach an important lesson to students.
"It was such a valuable exercise for the students to hear from John and Andrew. Their stories translate the content that we cover within the unit to real life; demonstrating not only the potential for errors to occur within our criminal justice system, but also the changes that are necessary to reduce the potential for future error. My biggest hope is that the students carry into their professional careers the message that was delivered by both speakers today: to always act with integrity,” she said.
John Button is now retired and assisting the Criminal Justice Review Project (Innocence Project), based at ECU, in the review of other claims of wrongful conviction.
Andrew Mallard currently works as an artist and designer, and is studying towards a Masters in Occupational Therapy, so that he can achieve his dream of helping others as an art therapist.
For more information, contact Nikki Rajakaruna.
Phone: (61 8) 6304 5497