TORONTO - Oct. 13, 2019 -
Innocent people and their families who have been affected by a wrongful conviction may be looking to vote for a political party committed to reducing wrongful convictions. As of this press release three parties have offered pledges in their campaigns to support an independent wrongful conviction tribunal– the Liberals, NDP and the Greens.
Canada's current Criminal Conviction Review Group under the umbrella of the minister of justice has been deemed a sluggish, inefficient and a non-independent last-resort avenue for the wrongly convicted. Innocence Canada, partially funded by the federal government, has thus far facilitated just 23 successful overturned convictions since 1993, a 26 year time span.
Clary Jaxon, founder of Social Theory Watch, a research and analysis organization focused on the causes of wrongful convictions says, "while Innocence Canada proposes an independent wrongful conviction tribunal, that organization primarily works on murder cases. In reality there are even more wrongful convictions related to sex crimes. To give you an idea, during a five-year time span, between 2013 and 2017 there were 94 publicly recorded overturned sex crime convictions alone." Jaxon created Canada's only Wrongful Conviction Sex Crimes database, which can be found here: https://www.socialtheorywatch.org/database.html
Jaxon's research and analysis purports the main contributing factors in sex crime wrongful convictions is the lack of a requirement for corroborating evidence – other verifiable evidence that supports the claim, and the removal of a statute of limitations for making such complaints to police.
"Anyone can file a police report claiming someone sexually abused them 20, 30 even 40 years prior without having to provide any supporting evidence. These factors mean police services and criminal courts can only rely on subjective character evidence, evidence of opportunity, and convincing claims of trauma that may or may not be true. However none of those factors alone or even together can objectively prove that a crime occurred. Police, Crown prosecutors, judges and juries are susceptible to making bad judgment calls bringing in their own biases and ignoring or misapprehending exonerating evidence. In turn irreparably destroying the lives of innocent people and their families."
While Jaxon commends the proposal for an independent tribunal, she worries that it will only prioritize murder cases and that wrongful convictions for sex crimes will continue to happen unless definitive legislative action is taken to prevent them from happening in the first place.
"A legitimately independent wrongful conviction tribunal would call attention to these problems and make strong, bold recommendations to raise the standard of proof to the high bar that once existed before the repeal of the corroboration doctrine and the statute of limitations back in the 1980s."
Learn more about Social Theory Watch:
"Clary Jaxon" takes a critical look at how current social theories and the efforts to instill them compare to the reality of actual social conditions. With a focus on Canadian issues. Check out the STW YouTube channel.