Table of Contents
Evidence is a crucial part of a criminal case because the ability of prosecution to parade key facts and information in the form of proof can determine whether the case will be a win or a loss. Identification evidence, for instance, comes from assertions that the defendant resembles the attacker, further relying on forensic evidence, proof of admission, and retrieval of stolen items from the suspect’s house. This type of proof is treated with caution since it may lead to a miscarriage of justice as its admissibility (ability to bolster a point put forth by the prosecution) may be prejudicial. The reliability (the extent to which key facts tend to accurately prove an issue without misleading the jury) of such evidence may also be questionable. In the case of Blackburn, the detectives relied on facial identification evidence, proof of admission, and forensic evidence to convict the suspect, which could not be admissible and lacked reliability in terms of law as it stood then and under the Evidence Act of 1995.
Facial Identification Evidence
The Blackburn investigators heavily relied on the facial identification proof of the suspect as the attacker in George’s Hall attacks and Sutherland rapes. In George’s Hall attacks, the chief investigator, Mr. Thornthwaite, draws evidence from a police circular that the photo’s facial elements and the body description of the purported rapist resemble those of Blackburn. The male suspect in his middle ages (25-35 years), of medium build, curly or wavy dark brown hair, and dark colored eyes, English ascent closely matched the traits and appearance of Blackburn, who at the time was serving as a Sergeant third class at a local police station (Lee & Royal Commission 1990, p. 34). The photo used for the comparison was retrieved from the suspect’s house during the initial investigations. At the time, the suspect was only 39 years old (Lee & Royal Commission 1990, p. 33). The suspect`s photos (from the police records and that stolen from his house) are clearly and positively identified by victims “M” from Kirrawee and Miss T who confirmed that the man on the photos subjected them to the rape ordeal (Moreland & Clark 2016, p. 279). In yet another piece of evidence, detectives agree that a pouch for a knife with initials “MJB” is connected with the initials of the suspect HJB (Lee & Royal Commission 1990, p. 34). It was retrieved a few yards from the first criminal incident.
Evidence on similarity acts cannot be admissible in a judicial process since it would be primarily based on a hunch unless there are striking similarities between different rapes. As it stood then, similar fact evidence could not be inadmissible to a judicial process because of the great emphasis placed on issues that do not warrant much weight. It still prevails in the post Evidence Act of 1995 era since such evidence cannot be applied to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that a suspect is culpable of the committed crimes. Thus, similar physical features such as body build and age cannot help reach a reasonable conclusion because many people share the same characteristics (Jackson 2016, p. 235). Therefore, the admissibility and reliability of similar acts in this case are questionable since there are no striking similarities to proof both rapes were perpetrated by one individual.
Proof of Admission
Proof of admission played an essential role in the formulation of the identification evidence against the suspect. According to Lee and Royal Commission (1990, p. 37), in more than one case, the suspect had claimed association with police or had some form of police training. The general physical description of the suspect as a strong and well-fit man was apt to illustrate a man in the police force. The sentiments by the detectives are collaborated by the victim’s submissions that the suspect would wipe areas of the vehicle he touched presumptively to remove any fingerprints or marks (Cooper 2016a, p. 756). It conclusively suggested that the suspect was well aware of investigation methods used by the police. At that time, the suspect was in the police force. These findings are evidenced in the court’s exhibits (S nee A/D and B/M/B) (Lee & Royal Commission 1990, p. 57). In addition, the suspect stated that the point of abduction was not the point of crime. It reflected a person conscious of police operations. By doing so, the suspect ensured that exhibits could not be easily located. It, however, was a complete departure from George`s Hall attacks in which the suspect would apparently lock the male victims in the car’s boot before raping the female victims. Therefore, the mere fact that female victims were driven away before being raped indicated that the suspect was aware of police operations or was possibly in the police force, a case that reflected Blackburn.
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The admissibility of proof of own admission evidence is contested in this case either based on the laws as they stood at the time and the current laws. From the two scenarios, it is evident there is no concrete evidence to support claims the suspect was in the police force (Zhuang 2016, p. 611). Thus, it is easier to perpetrate heinous crimes while disguised as a police officer. The victims’ submissions provide different versions of the suspect with only two cases in which the defendant identifies himself as either a police offer, security person, or a night guard. Thus, such identification evidence is inadmissible in a judicial process unless there is an accompanying evidence (Allen 2017, p. 141). Given the type of evidence is inadmissible, its reliability is questionable as it cannot be rationally reasoned that it carries significant weight to support such accusations without confusing the jury.
Finally, the detectives relied on forensic evidence to prosecute Blackburn for the series of rape attacks. Unfortunately, the results of forensic investigations did not conclusively connect the suspect to the crimes. Semen and blood collected from the victim and her clothing did not positively reflect the blood samples from Blackburn at the time of arrest (Cooper 2016b, p. 27). For instance, the results from victim B1 M show a near match, and the semen detected from the valval and perianal swabs revealed that the suspect could be merely amongst millions of individuals who would fall under the blood group A secretor, O secretors, or non-secretors (Menaker, Campbell & Wells 2017, p. 399). Thus, it could not be positively concluded that it was him (Blackburn was of blood group O). Similar investigations on the victim B2 P/P showed a disparity between the suspect’s blood type and semen smears found on the blanket, jeans, and the tissues, which indicated that the suspect must have been of blood group A, and not blood group O (Lee & Royal Commission 1990, p. 248). Forensic research on the victim B5 S/W cements the notion that Blackburn did not participate in the rape cases because semen samples showed the perpetrator was of group A (Lee & Royal Commission 1990, p. 261). Thus, it was clear from the blood and semen investigations that Blackburn was not liable for the crimes of rape in George’s attacks and the Sutherland rapes.
Therefore, the identification evidence involving the forensic investigation of the blood and semen samples extracted from the victim`s tissues and cloth could not, at the time, be admissible to a court of law. The same case applies to the post Evidence Act 1995 legislation as the evidence shows outright divergence. Human beings have distinct blood groups which do not vary in natural, environmental, or artificial conditions (Robertson, Vignaux & Berger 2016, p. 62). Thus, it persists in the lifetime of an individual. The results from investigations indicating that the perpetrator had blood group A could and cannot be used to prosecute a person with blood group O since it would raise key reliability issues (Valentine & Fitzgerald 2016, p. 136). Likewise, a court of law cannot be compelled to the belief that evidence from a different suspect can be used to incriminate another individual and receive a reliability score. Therefore, the scientific evidence from the victims is not reliable to prosecute the defendant for such grave accusations. In fact, the detectives should have been more thorough not relying on a pure hunch to connect Blackburn to the two attacks.
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The detectives in the case of Blackburn relied on three crucial pieces of identification evidence in their investigations. The photo or facial recognition of the suspect was, perhaps, relied on most. Some victims and the lead investigator were satisfied the picture of the rapist was similar to that of Blackburn. However, the admissibility and reliability of such evidence would be questionable then and in the current law, given the generality of descriptions provided by the victims. Proof of admission was also consulted in the case. It is indicated that in some scenarios, the rapist confessed to being a police officer. However, the information is conflicting in George`s Hall attacks and Sutherland rapes, which would diminish the admissibility and reliability of such evidence to prosecute the case. Finally, the detectives relied on forensic evidence from blood and semen. However, the samples collected from the victim’s tissues did not match to that of Blackburn at the time of arrest. Such evidence would, therefore, be not admissible or reliable to prove such a case now, under the Election Act 25/1995 (NSW).