Royal Commissions and Criminal Justice : Behind the Ideal

Brown, David (2004) Royal Commissions and Criminal Justice : Behind the Ideal. In Gilligan, George & Pratt, John (Eds.) Crime, Truth and Justice : Official Inquiry, Discourse, Knowledge. Willan Publishing, Portland, USA, pp. 26-45.

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Royal commissions are approached not as exercises in legitimation and closure but as sites of struggle that are heavily traversed by power holders yet are open to the voices of alternative and unofficial social groups, social movements, and individuals. Three case studies are discussed that highlight the hegemony of the legal methodology and discourse that dominate many inquiries. The first case, involving a single-case miscarriage inquiry, involves a man who was accused, convicted, and served a prison sentence for the murder of his wife. Nineteen years following the murder another man confessed to the crime. The official inquiry found that nothing had gone wrong in the criminal justice process; it had operated as it should. Thus, in the face of evidence that the criminal justice process may be flawed, the discursive strategy became one of silence; no explanation was offered except for the declaration that nothing had gone wrong. The fallibility of the criminal justice system was thus hidden from public view. The second case study examines the Wood Royal Commission into corruption charges within the NSW Police Service. The royal commission revealed a bevy of police misconduct offenses including process corruption, improper associations, theft, and substance abuse, among others. The author discusses the ways in which the other criminal justice players, the judiciary and prosecuting attorneys, emerge only briefly as potential ethical agents in relation to police misconduct and corruption and then abruptly disappear again. Yet, these other players are absolved of any responsibility for police misconduct. The third case study involves a spin-off inquiry into the facts surrounding the Leigh Leigh rape and murder case. This case illustrates how official inquires can seek to exclude non-traditional viewpoints and methodologies; in this case, the views of a feminist criminologist. The third case also illustrates how the adversarial process within the legal system allows those with power to subjugate the viewpoints of others through the legitimate use of cross-examination. These three case studies reveal how official inquiries tend to speak from an “idealized conception of justice” and downplay any viewpoint that questions this idealized version of the truth.

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ID Code: 68683
Item Type: Book Chapter
ISBN: 9781843920274
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Willan Publishing
Deposited On: 18 Mar 2014 00:53
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2014 00:03

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