Inaugural Political Science Lecture Series in War Memorial Hall

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Written by Milosz Zak and Josh Dehaas

The evening of January 9th was a landmark evening for the University of Guelph's political science department as it welcomed James Lockyer to War Memorial Hall to kick off the inaugural Political Science Lecture Series.

A champion of the wrongfully convicted, James Lockyer is a recognized defender of justice who has helped more than ten wrongfully convicted people be released from jail. The University of Guelph presented him with an honorary Doctorate of Law in 2007.

In a charming British accent, Lockyer discussed the horrors associated with miscarriages of justice. In particular, he cited shocking examples where unreliable 'expert' evidence, 'junk science' forensics, shady jailhouse informants, and the systemic suppression of evidence have led to wrongful conviction. He cited such high-profile cases as those involving Romeo Phillion, and Steven Truscott. Both men were in attendance and shyly acknowledged the standing ovation initiated by Lockyer. Lockyer has also been involved in cases of Guy Paul Morin, Gregory Parson and David Millgaard.

Lockyer focused on the new trend of changing attitudes towards wrongful convictions in Canada. However, he discussed continued reluctance to change among the judicial system. As he sees it, Canada's judicial system thinks the exposition and appeal of wrongful convictions is damaging to the system as a whole. As a result, all such cases are vigorously opposed in the appeal process even when blatant evidence of the innocence of individuals exists. According to Mr. Lockyer, Canadian judges at all levels are in denial that such coups for justice occur in their courts. Thanks to his work, Lockyer has witnessed positive change in attitudes nation-wide when it comes to the wrongly convicted. Canadians are now more aware than ever of the fallibility of our justice system, even if the judicial system is slow to accept that fact.

Lockyer proposed that there is more that can be done in Canada. He points to the United Kingdom where the judicial system has taken a more progressive stance towards wrongful convictions. He believes that the introduction of tribunals which redress potential wrongful convictions has strengthened the justice system in the U.K.

James Lockyer concluded the evening with a question and answer period. The inaugural Political Science Lecture Series ended with a standing ovation, boding well for the future of the lecture series.

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