I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I have no idea how some authors can get themselves involved in a miscarriage of justice, see the case through to its conclusion, write an incisive and revealing book about the state of justice (particularly when it's in the state in which they continue to live), and not develop the odd twitch. Not, I'd hasten to add, have I had more than a few moments chat with Colleen Egan, but having now read this book I admire both her persistence and her stamina profoundly, and can remember no such twitch.
Despite Egan's involvement in the long drawn out attempts to take the conviction of Andrew Mallard for the 1994 murder of Pamela Lawrence to appeal or somehow to be reconsidered by the WA Justice System; despite the glaring inconsistencies in both the evidence and the conduct of the trial that she found; regardless of how suspect the conduct of the investigation seems to have been, she has written a book in which her involvement isn't overly emphasised and the conclusions drawn throughout seem to be extremely reasonable and consistent with the evidence encountered. To be fair, there is a difference between an author writing as an investigative journalist, working actively to reverse a miscarriage of justice, and one who is simply reporting on a case, but for some reason I've read a few books recently where reporting authors have seemed all to keen to insert themselves into the story - which frankly is becoming increasingly off-putting. Egan has, possibly, gone the opposite way and almost downplayed her impact on the case, and the impact that the case has had on her. There are some passages which do explain some of the impact of the frustration and the effort required in staying with what was obviously a conviction that was highly suspect had on everyone in the team that eventually came together to fight for Andrew Mallard's innocence.
This wasn't just a family refusing to accept that a son could not have done this terrible murder. Egan herself was convinced to get involved based on evidence from the police and the conduct of the trial. John Quigley, WA barrister, solicitor, member of State Parliament, currently, I believe, Shadow Attorney General paid a heavy price, going from being the lawyer for the WA Police Union for 20 years, and an honorary life member, to the man who stood against the Police in questioning their conduct of Mallard's case, and ultimately to an accusation of bringing the legal profession into disrepute.
Regardless of what slings and arrows were thrown at Mallard's team during their pursuit of justice, ultimately, leave to appeal the conviction before the High Court of Australia was granted. That Court bought down a ruling that was extremely critical of the West Australian courts, and ultimately, Andrew Mallard's innocence was proven once and for all, when a WA Police Cold Case review found hard physical evidence that showed the killer was another man, already found guilty of a similar murder, and dead from a suicide in the WA Penal system.
Leaving aside the appalling situation of his conviction, the saddest, most profoundly disturbing thing about this book is how a young, fragile and vulnerable man had his life taken away from him, and how he still struggles to make something of what is left to him. The state of Compensation for such a blatant miscarriage of justice in WA makes your blood boil. The appalling situation that Pamela Lawrence's family were placed in stays with me, as does the effect on Mallard's own family.
The upside of the book is that final line in the blurb of the book: "It is about justice, survival and what can happen when good people take on the system".
The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, Past Justice of the High Court of Australia is quoted on the back of the book: 'Even great courts and independent judges can sometimes get things wrong. Reading this book, we should resolve to strengthen our defences against miscarriages of justice.' Exactly.