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CASA conduct in prosecutions [Expert witnesses]

In a recent appeal against a finding in Western Australia , in the WAust Supreme Court on 18th November 2013:

The convictions followed a three-day trial [MAGISTRATES COURT OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA ] conducted between 21 and 23 November 2012, after which the learned magistrate reserved his decision. That trial was significantly focussed upon events that occurred four years earlier, chiefly, on 21 August 2008.

Where the pilot is convicted:

On 4 February 2013, the learned magistrate imposed a global penalty of a $5,000 fine against Mr Calandra in respect of the two convictions.

The following was noted by the judge in the appeal to the WA Supreme Court, (which was dismissed):

101 Mr Alder [Roger] was an expert aviation witness called on behalf of the prosecution. He was an in-house employee of the  Civil Aviation Safety  Authority and called to express his expert views. The learned magistrate was rather kind in his remarks towards Alder, observing at par 45 that Mr Alder had at times ‘confused his role’. By that he presumably meant Mr Alder had confused his role by not behaving independently as an expert witness and instead seeking to express partisan views to advance the case of the prosecution.

102 At par 45, the learned magistrate effectively negated the impact of Mr Alder’s evidence by concluding ‘there is significant commonality with Mr Pfeiffer’s evidence’. Mr Pfeiffer was the expert aircraft (helicopter) engineer witness called at trial on behalf of the appellant.

103 The reasons therefore show Mr Alder’s partisan expert evidence was only used in circumstances where it was in harmony with the evidence of the defendant’s expert. That accords with my independent review of how Mr Alder’s evidence ought to be used.

104 In those circumstances, I assess it as safe to conclude Mr Alder’s participation in the trial, in the end, delivered no prejudice to Mr Calandra. In the future, however, it should be said in firm terms that any practice of calling demonstrably partisan in-house experts as prosecution witnesses is both unsatisfactory and unacceptable.

This bears some careful thought as to what CASA people will say, even in a Court of Law, much less the AAT.

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