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Students to review wrongful conviction claims

Students to review wrongful conviction claims

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A new project at the University of Sydney will see undergraduate and postgraduate students in psychology and law investigate claims of wrongful conviction.

Dr Celine Van Golde, the founder and director of Not Guilty: The Sydney Exoneration Project, said the project “ultimately seeks social justice for those in need”.

The project will allow psychology and law students at the university to apply to be supervised to review cases where no DNA evidence is available, but where other evidence can verify a person’s innocence.

“Research shows eyewitness misidentification is by far the key cause of wrongful convictions, while other contributing factors can include false memories, false confessions, and laboratory error,” Dr Van Golde said.

“The Sydney Exoneration Project applies forensic psychological research into memory and testimony to investigate these issues.”

David Hamer, associate professor of Evidence and Proof and Sydney Exoneration Project supervisor said: “Wrongful convictions happen in this country."

He continued: “Without any real mechanism to identify and address them, Australian legal systems are left without a clear picture and means of amending miscarriages of justice.”

According to the University of Sydney, there is currently no reliable national data on the prevalence of wrongful convictions across Australia.

“There is a clear need in Australia for bodies [...] with proper powers and resources to conduct investigations into possible wrongful convictions across the board,” associate professor Hamer said.

“In the absence of a proper government body, innocence projects must attempt to fill the gap.”

The project will begin in March and cases will be de-identified to protect victims. Findings will be published in scholarly journals.

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