2023 Kirby Seminar series

Thursday 2 November, 12.00pm

Via Zoom or On-Campus at Lewis Seminar Room, W38. School of Law 


Wrongful convictions: Kinds, causes and solutions

Professor David Hamer

University of Sydney Law School


If interested and to obtain a link, please register for this Kirby Seminar at


In this Kirby Seminar, Professor David Hamer will provide an overview of wrongful convictions in Australia, how they are treated by current law and the prospects for reform. Different kinds of wrongful convictions will be outlined, distinguishing between the notion of legal innocence and factual innocence. An overview will follow of known wrongful convictions and reflections made on the far larger number of hidden wrongful convictions. Acknowledging the limitations on our knowledge, causes of the various kinds of wrongful convictions will be explored. Suggested reforms may assist both in the avoidance and correction of wrongful convictions.

The seminar will examine the regular conviction appeal process, the new subsequent appeal legislation (SA, Tas, Vic), and post-appeal reviews (eg, ACT, NSW). Recent high-profile cases will be placed into context, such as Pell (2020) 268 CLR 123, Eastman v ACT [2019] ACTSC 280, and Folbigg (pardoned, 5 June 2023). Consideration will be given to whether Australia should adopt a Criminal Cases Review Commissions, following England (1997), Scotland (1999), New Zealand (2020), and Canada (in the near future).

David Hamer is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean (Postgraduate Coursework) at the University of Sydney School of Law. He is interested in how criminal courts deal with evidence in determining whether to convict or acquit defendants. While focusing on the detail of evidence law and criminal procedure, he takes an interdisciplinary approach. His research engages both the psychology and the logic of proof and draws on empirical research and formal probabilistic models. His work further explores how the pursuit of factual accuracy is affected by other sometimes competing concerns: efficiency, fairness, and the overarching need to provide a mechanism for settling disputes that retains public acceptance. An additional area of interest to David is the regulation of child sexual assault prosecutions. Drawing on David’s work, the recent Royal Commission recommended that the prosecution be able to place greater reliance on the accusations of other alleged victims to corroborate the complainant’s allegation. He is contributing to the development of laws to implement this Royal Commission recommendation.