In February this year the Court of Criminal Appeal granted Gordon Wood his freedom.
Gordon Wood for those who have been neglected to read a newspaper or watch a television for the past few years, is the man who was found guilty and subsequently spent 3 years behind bars for allegedly murdering his 24 year old girlfriend Caroline Byrne, by throwing her of The Gap in Watson's Bay in June 1995.
So is he guilty or not guilty? He has been released so surely he must not be guilty, right?
The reality of this case that can only be described as an utter "mess" is that we will never know the truth. We are never going to know if he is guilty or not guilty. The only person who could now tell the truth is the victim and if she were still alive today this would not be on the table for discussion. So who has the justice system let down here? Have they let Caroline Byrne's family and friends down by letting a murder walk free? or, have they let Gordon Wood down, by sending him to jail for 3 years for something he didn't do? We will never know. But one thing is for certain and that is that the justice system has let down society as a whole due to the outcome in this case. How can we trust the system to get it right, when the system allows such a mess to conspire?
It is probably relevant to mention why the Court of Criminal Appeal was forced to make such a decision. An expert witness that gave evidence at Wood's original trial was found not to be such an "expert" after all. How does an expert witness, used by the prosecution to provide his "expert" opinion on the probability of an event turn out to not be an expert? Well it turns out that "self taught experts" do not exactly fit into the category that the justice system in the country requires. WHAT A SHAM! I am a mother and well it safe to say nobody taught me how to do that, so apparently as I am self taught and all, I am no expert on matters of a mothering nature! So wrong! So, so wrong!
But it is what it is.
Wood is now free, double jeopardy will ensure that he is never tried again for this crime and he is now being paid ridiculous sums for television interviews and I am sure a book deal is soon to follow as he needs something to go into battle with Byrne's father Tony's book The Killing of Caroline Byrne: A Journey of Justice, and we, the Australian public are left confused and in a state of distrust with our legal system. So how do we fix it? The answer is, we probably can't.
As I have said in a previous post, the reason I continue to study law is so that I can make a difference, and maybe if every lawyer out there and every member of the judiciary had the same view we could change the legal system so that things like this are never allowed to happen. This case has highlighted the need for a better system. It needs to be clearer, it needs to be more immediate and it needs to be improved dramatically. Relevance id such a pivotal aspect of evidence, yet the concept of relevance seems to play no such part in the procedural aspect of our legal system. Its not relevant guys, so lets fix it!
My heart goes out to Caroline Byrne's family and friends however it also goes out to Gordon Wood which some people may find controversial. The Byrne's will never get their daughter back and that is obviously a tragedy, and Gordon Wood will live forever with society either judging him as guilty or not guilty. Yet he has not had a fair trial which is a right every citizen in this country should be given. In this case, whether he is guilty or not guilty our legal system has ensured that it no longer matters!