Tuesday, September 13, 2022

"Overturning a miscarriage of justice takes a multitude of people to move heaven and earth"

Embed from Getty Images

It is now close to impossible to overturn wrongful convictions in the courts, says Dennis Eady, head of Cardiff University's Innocence Project. 

The project conducts casework, research and advocacy on the miscarriages of justice and is the only such UK university project to have helped overturn cases at the Court of Appeal.

Writing on the Inside Time website, Eady says:

Over the years our chances of being able to help people towards a successful appeal have gone from remote to virtually non-existent. 

There are numerous reasons for this, but the primary reason is that the appeal system presents an impenetrable barrier, which seems to have got higher and stronger, while due process safeguards at the trial stage have been systematically eroded over the last 30 or so years. In short, it has become easier to convict, harder to mount a defence and just one step down from impossible to correct wrongful convictions. 

As an old campaigning friend of mine once put it "Overturning a miscarriage of justice takes a multitude of people to move heaven and earth."

His comments are part on the inquiry into the Criminal Cases Review Commission conducted by the Westminster Commission on Miscarriages of Justice. You can download the inquiry report, which was published in February of last year.

The inquiry was co-chaired by Lord Garnier, the former solicitor general and Conservative MP for Harborough. He says:

Our report was debated in the House of Commons but with no commitment from the minister answering the debate that the Government would actually do anything in response to it. 
It is therefore with some surprise but a great deal of pleasure we learn that the Law Commission is to examine, amongst a number of other matters, not only the "real possibility" test, but also whether the Court of Appeal can order a retrial or substitute a conviction for another (presumably lesser) offence as well as whether the "safety test", used to grant an appeal on the grounds that a conviction is "unsafe", makes it too difficult to correct miscarriages of justice.

The "real possibiliy" test refers to the rule that the CCRC can refer cases for review only where it considers there is a ‘real possibility’ that the Court of Appeal will overturn the conviction or sentence.

This rule, says report, tends to make the CCRC too deferential tot he Court of Appeal and limits its freedom of action.


Frank Little said...

Which minister would be responsible for sponsoring the necessary legislation, if the Law Commission recommends changes?

Jonathan Calder said...

I imagine it would be the lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, who is now Brandon Lewis.

Frank Little said...

"Brandon Lewis has hardly ever rebelled" says They Work For You. That suggests that the status quo will remain.

Jonathan Calder said...

He's a minister, so that's bound to be the case. If he does favour the status quo then he will maintain the policy that has encouraged Garnier.