Wrongful Convictions

A right to appeal a wrongful conviction due to new and compelling evidence will enhance the ACT criminal justice system.

Monday 6 June 2022

The ACT Government is committed to considering amendments to introduce best practice right to appeal law.

The Parliamentary and Governing Agreement for the 10th ACT Legislative Assembly identified as a key priority reforming the right to appeal if a person is wrongfully convicted of a crime in the ACT Supreme Court.

As a part of delivering this reform to enhance the criminal justice system for the ACT community, the Government sought community views and feedback on a Discussion Paper, Wrongful Conviction: Reform to the right to appeal and right to compensation. The Discussion Paper was released on 6 April 2022.

The Discussion Paper proposed a new right to appeal against a conviction where fresh and compelling evidence becomes available, even if the convicted person has already exhausted all their other appeal rights.

In addition, the Discussion Paper examined potential guidelines on the right to compensation if a person is wrongfully convicted.

Media release - Improving justice through a new right to appeal  - 6 April 2022

The Discussion Paper is available  on the online engagement platform, YourSay. Written and oral submissions on the Discussion Paper closed on 18 May 2022.

The ACT Government will use the submissions to inform reforms for the ACT community. A Listening Report is now being prepared on the feedback.

Although the proposal to adopt a new right to appeal is currently in the early phase of planning, it is important to acknowledge that any new conviction appeal right is likely to impact victims of crime as such an appeal prolongs court proceedings and is likely to cause further trauma and stress to the victim of crime due to the uncertainty of outcome and re-engagement with the justice system. 

Any new right to appeal a conviction would be very likely to be used only rarely, based on the experience of other jurisdictions with similar appeal rights.

The ACT Charter of Rights for Victims of Crime outlines the rights of victims, including in relation to the criminal justice system.  A victim of crime (if they ask the prosecutor) has a right to be told if an offender appeals a court decision and about the nature and outcome of the appeal.  Other victims’ rights, such as rights in relation to bail and sentencing and the right to access aids and adjustments to participate in the justice system, may also be accessed where needed, following the adoption of any new right to appeal.

Victim Support ACT currently provides a range of supports to victims of crime engaging with the criminal justice system, including: the provision of counselling and other therapeutic services; advocacy to help victims access their rights and address concerns in the criminal justice system; and the Financial Assistance Scheme and a Court Support Program. These supports would be available for victims of crime where a conviction is appealed under any new right to appeal. Further information about Victims Support ACT is available here.

This page will be updated as the Wrongful Conviction project progresses.