Do the police always get it right?
Most people would agree that police have a difficult and often dangerous job. They are under a lot of pressure when responding to crimes. Often the police, and the other executive branches who lay charges, will get it right. But there are times that the police get it wrong.
In most cases, errors are unintentional rather than a “conspiracy” against a person charged. While this doesn’t cover all circumstances, normally an incorrect conclusion from police could mean:
- the information provided to the police by witnesses appeared compelling but was not true
- the police think a crime has been committed, but it has not
- someone may have done something that appeared illegal, but they had a defence at law.
It is for these types of cases that defence lawyers exist. These are also the cases where we get the most job satisfaction (when successful) or lose sleep (when unsuccessful).
Lack of proof according to the law
One situation where police can lose a case, even if a crime is committed, is when they incorrectly charge, or the accused has a reasonable defence at law.
In a former role as a prosecutor representing the Government, Rowan King was involved in a case where the defendant was able to argue that they were not guilty of the specific offence charged, though they had committed a crime.
A wife was assaulted by the husband, despite a DV Order being in place. Though the wife did not want to press charges, the police chose to proceed with a charge of ‘Contravention of the DVO’.
As a prosecutor representing the position of the police, Rowan King could easily prove the defendant had assaulted his ex-wife as there were photos and footage. However, due to lack of evidence of the DVO and the testimony given by the defendant, Mr King could not prove the essential element of the crime – that the husband had been served with the DVO. Even though it was clear the defendant had committed A crime, Rowan could not prove he committed THE crime as charged by the police. As Rowan could not prove the husband had knowledge of the order prohibiting the violence, he was acquitted of the charge.