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Documentary makes valid point on evidence flaws

Smith: Documentary makes valid point on evidence flaws

United Future justice spokesman Murray Smith today agreed with the makers of the documentary on convicted double murderer John Barlow that there are inadequacies in the evidence given in criminal trials and wants greater disclosure on the part of the police.

Trial by Ordeal screened on TV One last night.

Mr Smith said that while he personally had no doubts about Barlow's guilt (he changed his story every time the police found fresh evidence), the trial pointed to deficiencies in the production of evidence on the part of both the police and Barlow.

At present the discovery process (whereby defence counsel get access to the police case research) requires defence lawyers to guess what the police have got and make fairly specific requests for it.

"If they don't think to ask; they don't get it" he said.

Mr Smith said that, given the disparity in resources available to the police and defence teams to investigate a crime, the police should be required to disclose to the defence counsel and, more importantly, the jury everything this is at all relevant to the case.

While Mr Smith admits that this would add a lot of time-consuming work to the police, it was important that juries were presented with all relevant facts if they were to be expected to return correct verdicts.

Mr Smith repeated a call he made last month that defendants be required to give evidence so that the jury hears directly from them what their answer is to the charges brought. Failure to do so could be held as prejudicial against them by the court.

"Barlow was happy to tell the media his side of the story throughout the investigation but wouldn't repeat it to the jury.

"It is my view that if he had been required to do so there would have only been one trial, not three, before he was found guilty" Mr Smith said.

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