Author Archives: Carole McCartney

UK’s Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) subject of critical report.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission of England and Wales (Scotland has their own Commission) has been the subject of a recent inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Select Justice Committee (see here). The inquiry received 47 written submissions and heard oral evidence from a select group of experts, lawyers and campaigners on miscarriages of justice. The Committee today released it’s highly critical report that can be read here….  It made a series of recommendations including increased funding from government, but also that the CCRC ‘relax’ it’s narrow interpretation of the ‘real possibility’ test when referring cases back to the Court of Appeal. There have been media reports highlighting the critical tone of the report:

Miscarriage of justice review body is dismissed as the Court of Appeal’s ‘lap dog’ in hard-hitting report

The report concluded:

19. We conclude that the CCRC is performing its functions reasonably well, and we have identified areas for improvement, but we were struck by the disparity between what critics believe it to be doing and what it claims that it is doing. At times there was complete disagreement, even on objective and factual matters. This indicates that at the very least the CCRC has a problem with public perception, including with the awareness of applicants as to what it can do for them and of all stakeholders, including applicants, their representatives, and others, as to how it operates. The CCRC will never convince its most vociferous detractors, but it could be doing more to ensure that its work and processes are well understood. (Paragraph 54)

20. The level of successful referrals from the CCRC shows that it remains as necessary a body now as when it was set up. We received very little evidence advocating its abolition, and even its strongest critics have said that they simply want it to improve. The existence of the CCRC is not enough in and of itself; it must be given the resources and powers it requires to perform its job effectively. The fundamental constitutional principle on which our criminal justice system rests and which the Commission exists to uphold is that the guilty are convicted and the innocent go free. (Paragraph 55)

Protest by those ‘insufficiently innocent’ to receive compensation

There has been a lot of publicity surrounding a protest by four individuals who spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit, and have subsequently been refused any compensation. The ‘Global Law Summit’ being held in London, already controversial for ‘celebrating’ the rule of law in the UK – at a time when the justice system is being decimated by government cuts – was the focus of the protest by Victor Nealon, Barry George, Martin Foran and James Boyle, each having suffered a miscarriage of justice but denied any compensation. A couple of news items on their protest appear here…

Why is Britain refusing to compensate victims of miscarriage of justice?

Barry George slams decision not to give him compensation cash

Exonerees in the UK: left penniless and abandoned.

Were it not shocking enough that we continue to wrongly convict people in England and Wales and make it ever harder for them to win their appeal, we are abandoning those individuals who manage to win their freedom, penniless, often homeless, and always damaged. With the recent showing of a compelling TV documentarly that investigates whether there has been a number of health professionals wrongful convicted of murder, concerns are once again being raised about what happens to victims even after they win their freedom. The case of Victor Nealon, wrongfully convicted and released miles from any support (he had to walk to a local journalists house and ask for a bed for the night), is sadly just one recent example. Post-conviction compensation for those wrongly convicted in the UK has always been hard won and almost always pitiful. However, the ‘crackdown’ on what constitues a ‘miscarriage of justice’ now means that almost no-one will receive compensation in the future. Individuals have to prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that they did not commit the crime. DNA from another individual on crime exhibits may suffice to have your conviction overturned at the Court of Appeal, but is insufficient to prove you are not the perpetrator and worthy of compensation. See the latest news item here on this shocking development:

Miscarriage of justice victims will find it harder to get compensation, lawyers say

In a perhaps even more sobering tale, Tony Poole, exonerated in 2003 of a untitledmurder after years protesting his innocence, is now on trial again for murder. The people who helped him win his freedom have talked about how prison saw Tony brutalised, and hooked on heroin. His release saw him eventually spiral out of control until he was isolated and addicted to hard drugs. This tale should highlight the struggle that continues for exonerees after their release, the very least the government can do is financially compensate these individuals. See Tony Poole’s sad story here…

Tony Poole given little support after release for wrongful murder conviction, it is claimed

Exoneration in Australia?: Henry Keogh freed after 20 years.

Australia has seen another high-profile wrongful conviction hit the headlines this week with the release on bail of Henry Keogh after serving 19 years in prison for the apparent murder of his fiancee in 1994. Keogh had always maintained his innocence, claiming a litany of errors during the autopsy, resulting in the bizarre conclusion that he had drowned his fiancee in t5984014-3x2-340x227he bath by lifting her legs over her head. The motive was apparently financial, with his fiancee having several life insurance policies. The case has been back and forth to the South Australian courts and Governors over the years until the South Australian Court of Criminal Appeal finally ordered a retrial on Monday, permitted Keogh to be free until such time the DPP decides to bring another prosecution. Keogh, aged 59, was only permitted a further appeal to the courts after a change in South Australian legislation last year, allowing appeals on ‘new and fresh compelling evidence’. Read more on the news here….

Henry Keogh released on bail after 20 years in jail on Anna-Jane Cheney murder conviction

and a journalist who assisted with the case for years, Bob Mole, has a page dedicated to Henry Keogh’s case here….

Networked Knowledge: The Henry Keogh Homepage

 

 

Ireland: Inaugural International Wrongful Conviction Conference & Film Festival

The Irish Innocence Project, working since 2009 at Griffith College, has announced Ireland’s Inaugural International Wrongful Conviction Conference and Film Festival – to newlogo2be held 26th and 27th June 2015. They have also launched a crowd funding appeal: “Be the Key: Set an Innocent Free”, to help the college students to work on overturning wrongful convictions in Ireland.

300914 Wrongful Conviction CR Shutterstock_0_0

See more details of the  conference and film festival – with great speakers, and the crowd funding appeal here:

Inaugural International Wrongful Conviction Conference & Film Festival

Great day in UK for Innocence: Cardiff University Justice Project Overturns Wrongful Conviction

The news coming from the UK in recent months, if not years, has rarely been good. Today (9th December 2014) is different, for today, the Criminal Court of Appeal found the conviction of Dwaine George ‘unsafe’ and overturned his  _79607026_ico12-1conviction for murder. George, convicted of shooting dead a teenager in a gang related incident in 2001, served 12 years of his life sentence behind bars, and was released last year.

Professor Julie Price and Dr Dennis Eady, who run Cardiff’s Innocence Project, were joined at the Royal Courts of Justice by 30 Cardiff law students, past and present, to hear the result of the students’ investigative work. Dr Eady said: “It has taken nine years of hard work since the project was launched to get to this point, and based on our students’ efforts the Court of Appeal has decided that Mr George’s conviction is unsafe.We appreciate that today’s decision will be difficult for Daniel Dale’s family, but if the wrong person was jailed then the right outcome has today been achieved.”

Prof Price added: “For Cardiff Law School Innocence Project, and other university projects working on alleged wrongful conviction cases, this is a significant day. It demonstrates that universities are about more than research, and can show public impact from innovative teaching and learning. This result has been achieved by collaborative effort. A huge thanks to our many supporters and students past and present.”

Sir Brian Levenson said in his ruling: “In addition to expressing our gratitude to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, we pay tribute to the work of the Innocence Project and Pro Bono Unit at Cardiff Law School, which took up the appellant’s case and pursued it so diligently.”

With the recent turmoil amongst those working in universities across the UK and their Innocence Projects (mostly called Justice Projects today because they do not satisfy the criteria for the title ‘Innocence Project’) this is a great victory. Many staff work tirelessly for little or no recognition, with students facing ever greater hurdles to have their work and dedication praised. Cardiff University;s staff and students will continue to work tirelessly and have many other cases that are working their way, slowly, through the CCRC. One can only hope that this is the first success of many. But today is a also shot in the arm for all of those working on behalf of the innocent – sorely needed, and richly deserved.

Watch news item and interviews here:

Cardiff Uni students help Dwaine George win murder appeal

Read more here:

UK judge praises students for helping overturn murder conviction

Judge praises Cardiff University law students for helping overturn Dwaine George’s murder conviction

Ex-gang member Dwaine George cleared of 2002 murder on appeal

Parliamentary Inquiry into UK’s Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC)

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of the Guildford Four, (one of the notorious ‘Irish’ miscarriages of justice in England and Wales that led to the creation of the Criminal Cases Review Commission – see anniversary article here… ), controversy still surrounds the organisation. This week it was revealed that the body is ‘fast-tracking’ the case of professional footballer Ched Evans, released this week after serving half of a five year sentence for rape. Ched, who played for UnknownSheffield United football club, has always maintained his innocence and has applied to the CCRC to investigate his case. The CCRC’s explanations for the decision to fast-track his case have been unconvincing (read more here…). This negative publicity comes at a critical time for the CCRC, as a Parliamentary inquiry into the operation and effectiveness of the miscarriages body is launched by the Justice Committee. The Committee is inviting submissions from interested parties, in order to answer the following four questions:

  1. Whether the CCRC has fulfilled the expectations and remit which accompanied it at its establishment following the 1993 report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice
  2. Whether the CCRC has in general appropriate and sufficient (i) statutory powers and (ii) resources to carry out its functions effectively, both in terms of investigating cases and in the wider role of promoting confidence in the criminal justice system
  3. Whether the “real possibility” test for reference of a case to the Court of Appeal under section 13(1) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 is appropriate and has been applied appropriately by the CCRC
  4. Whether any changes to the role, work and remit of the CCRC are needed and, if so, what those changes should be.

The deadline for submissions is 5th December. You can read more here…. 

In prison since 2003, yet authorities knew man wrongfully convicted in 2007

Shocking news coming from Spain, where it has become clear that a Dutch citizen, Romano van der Dussen, convicted in 2005 of a series of sexual assaults, REMAINS in prison, despite DNA proving his innocence in 2007.

Spanish authorities have had van der Dussen in prison since the rapes took place in 2003. He was found guilty on – now definitively erroneous – eyewitness identifications (with no other links between the suspect and the crimes) in 2005. 1410717812_066741_1410798646_sumario_normal

ven der Dussen, the photofit, and Mark Dixie

However, in 2007, INTERPOL were informed by British police, that convicted murderer Mark Dixie – serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of 17 year old model Sally Ann Bowman in the UK – had previously lived in Malaga in 2002-2003. Spanish authorities uploaded the DNA obtained from the sexual assaults, and subsequently received a report in March 2007 that the DNA from the scenes matched British murdered and serial offender Mark Dixie.

One might expect that in 2007, Spanish authorities – horrified that they were keeping an innocent man behind bars, would move swiftly to ensure his release. Instead, the case has bounced around the legal system, delayed by legal technicalities. His solicitor is now awaiting fingerprints and DNA of Dixie from British authorities to proceed further with securing the release of van der Dussen. ELEVEN years since his imprisonment, and SEVEN years since the authorities discovered his innocence. What can the Spanish possibly be doing?

Read more here:
Dutchman in Spanish jail waits for DNA justice

Fuengirola court reopens sexual assault case

Spanish authorities reopen Dutchman’s rape case

There are more detailed reports in Spanish and Dutch e.g.:
En la cárcel pese a las pruebas de ADN

Is ‘Innocence’ work over in the UK?

For some time, the news emanating from the UK has been getting worse with regard to the potential for miscarriages of justice, with law reforms diminishing legal protections for suspects and the almost total withdrawal of legal aid for the vast majority (nevermind the current moral panic of historic child sexual abuse which is swelling the prison population). This also comes at a time when changes to the rules on who can receive compensation for miscarriages of justice have also been ‘tightened’ to the point where barely anyone will qualify. I have blogged about many of the bad news stories coming out of the UK – including forensic science mishaps and police corruption seemingly continuing unabated regardless of new regulators or complaints bodies.Justice statue

Despite what one could view as the growing IMPORTANCE therefore of ‘innocence’ work in the UK, it looks as if things may be heading in the opposite direction. Following years of expansion with Innocence Projects being set up in universities across the country, it appears that these are now being encouraged to close. There are a host of reasons why Innocence Projects in the UK may be under threat (not least their position within univerisities whose priorites narrow ever further every day toward simply profit-making and rising up league tables.) They do not operate as a mirror to those in the US and internationally, largely because of the existence of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. However, their work is still invaluable. When I was Director of the University of Leeds Innocence Project, we received hundreds of letters (which still arrive weekly if not daily), reviewed dozens of cases, and assisted many prisoners. It also educated many students in the causes of, and remedies for, miscarriages of justice.  It gave many law students a passion for criminal legal aid work – where there is no money to be made and certainly no glory.

So – to read the announcement on the INUK website is all the more shocking. (see here… INUK – New Beginnings ). Where innocence work in the UK needs innovation, inspiration and support, it is being told that the day has come to pack our bags and go home. My thoughts are not only with those of us (staff and students alike) who have worked many years to get innocence taken seriously again in the UK, but those prisoners now who will be back at square one, with nowhere to turn yet again. How an ‘innocence network’ can survive, nevermind have any impact, with only one member, will remain to be seen.

UK Supreme Court Rule on Access to Evidence Post-Appeal

400px-uk_supreme_court_badgeThe Supreme Court of England and Wales has today ruled in the case of Kevin Nunn, an important ruling concerning the right of a convicted prisoner to access evidence in his case after he has been tried, and lost an appeal. Nunn had applied to the CCRC, claiming to be innocent of the murder of his girlfriend in 2005. Nunn is serving a life sentence for the murder. The CCRC denied a request to DNA test fluids found on the victim’s body. Nunn then applied through the Courts to gain access to the evidence in his case to have it re-tested (at his own expense). The Supreme Court this morning were ruling on whether he had the right to demand this evidence from the police and Crown. The full ruling (of just over 9 minutes) can be watched on YouTube here…. There has been some reporting of this morning’s judgement here…

Supreme Court rejects Kevin Nunn’s evidence release plea

Kevin Nunn: Lifer loses forensic tests fight eight years after murder conviction

There has also been a blog post, expressing unease – particularly as it lays a heavy burden upon the CCRC, who have not been known in the past to always make the right decision with regard to the re-testing of evidence. see here….

Kevin Nunn Case – Supreme Court application dismissed

I have jotted down a very quick summary of the main points of the unanimous judgement (which was mercifully short).

This appeal concerns the extent of disclosure duty AFTER the close of the case and any appeal. Police declined to keep going back to the evidence. Were they allowed to take this stance? Were they under the same duty of disclosure?

Unanimous decision that duty of disclosure does NOT continue unaltered after the trial. Up until end of trial he is presumed innocent. Once convicted he is no longer presumed innocent, but rather is proven guilty.

There remains a public interest in any flaw in his conviction being exposed. No-one ought to remain convicted if the conviction is unsafe. BUT also an important public interest in the finality of the process, for the family, witnesses etc. but also because of resources. There should not be indefinite re-investigations take resources away from new investigations.

There is a duty of disclosure but it is now more limited after trial. Guidelines issued by AG set out rules. Police and prosecutors must provide defendant with anything new if it casts doubt on the safety of the conviction. They must cooperate in further inquiry if the new inquiry has a real prospect of casting doubt. Not speculative reinvestigation simply because the defendant does not accept the decision of the jury.

In England and Wales, and Scotland, there is a specialist body charged with investigating suspected miscarriages of justice (CCRC). The existence of this body is another reason why there is no occasion for the Crown’s duty of disclosure to continue unaltered after conviction. If there is a proper inquiry on a topic where these is a real prospect that the conviction might be shown to be unsafe, the police and prosecution ought not to wait for an approach from the CCRC, but should cooperate in the inquiry.

If DNA retesting had a real prospect of showing that someone else committed the crime, then the continuing duty of disclosure would apply to it. on the facts of this case, it would not. It was known at the trial that the fluid could not have come from the defendant. Retesting in this case would not eliminate the defendant. A request for DNA testing should be dealt with according to the principles set out under the AG Guidelines.

 

Police lying: an endemic international problem?

It is starting to feel in the UK like ‘another day, another story of police lies’. In what feels like just a few months we have had media coverage of (to mention just a few) scandals where, for example, police have been caught falsifying reports of an altercation that they ‘witnessed’ when they were not present (see Plebgate scandal...). We have the ongoing revelations over police lies and their coercion of others to lie in the Hillsborough disaster cover-up (see Hillsborough inquiry...). It is suspected that these tactics were honed during the Miner’s Strike when striking miners were ‘fitted up’ (see Miners Strike….). Such tactics clearly have continued for years with many undercover police officers lies leading to convictions  (see undercover policing....) as well as the recent revelation that high profile victim Stephen Lawrence’s family were put under police surveillance during the inquiries into the police failures after Stephen’s murder (to try and discredit the family and their campaign for justice). This all comes on top of the almost run-of-the-mill stories of police ‘collusion’ with one another after fatal police shootings, with the introduction of body-worn cameras to enable the police to be ‘more transparent’ about fatal shootings. In fact, the introduction of police body-worn cameras has been posited as a boon for police as it will cut down on false allegations from the public. However, is it perhaps more likely that police body-worn cameras may serve to make the police more honest? Will they be able to lie with camera footage of the real altercation readily available?

0In Omagh, Northern Ireland, the introduction of CCTV cameras in the town has led to the uncovering of police lies leading to miscarriages of justice – with solicitors claiming that miscarriages may be ‘endemic': increasingly, CCTC footage is being shown to demonstrate that the police account of events is unreliable – even untrue (see story here…) Of course this has not been a good week either for police south of the border in Ireland, having been found to have been illicitly tape recording phone calls made to police stations (see here…). The other side of the world, in New Zealand, they are calling police lies and false evidence which have led to convictions as ‘failings’ and ‘sloppy police work’ (see here…Police failures led to wrongful conviction).

We have all known for years that there are ‘rotten apples’ and that wrongful convictions have often had police misrepresentations, if not outright corruption and lying, at their heart. However, the question must surely now be asked: is lying among the police an endemic international problem? If so, what can be done about it? These questions are already beginning to be murmured in corners of the UK, I think it is now time to get such questions out in the open. These are challenging times for the police, and if we are not to lose trust in them completely, I believe some hard questions must be asked and answers demanded.

 

UK Parliamentary debate on definition of a ‘miscarriage of justice’

There have been recent moves by the government in the UK, to severely restrict access to compensation for victims of miscarriages of justice. There has rightly, been (muted) outrage about the proposed requirement that the person claiming compensation had to prove their ‘innocence’ to be eligible for compensation. (see post here…)

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“A statutory definition was first attempted by the government as part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which originally stated a miscarriage of justice has occurred if new evidence must “show beyond reasonable doubt that the person was innocent of the offence”. When the bill progressed to the House of Lords, peers voted to defeat the government and change the wording so that the new evidence “shows conclusively that the evidence against the person at trial is so undermined that no conviction could possibly be based on it”.

The debate on the amendment and the definition of a ‘miscarriage of justice’ is available here….  For those of us involved in miscarriages of justice in the UK, this is essential viewing – and those interested in how authorities approach these issues. It is a long debate, but very very interesting! There has been limited reporting so far of the debate – but you can see one article here…

Wrongly jailed in UK may not get redress

Recent UK Exoneree talks about release and time in jail

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Recent DNA exoneree Victor Nealon, who spent 17 years in prison for an attempted rape he did not commit, has spoken of his time in prison and his release. He was given just 7 days notice of his appeal, then when freed from the appeal court, dropped at a local train station with 46 pounds (approx US$75) and nowhere to live. He is now considering suing the police for his arrest in order to gain some compensation to rebuild his life. Read the full interview here….

Postman who spent 17 years in prison after wrongful conviction for attempted rape says he is a ‘greater person’ for being victim of miscarriage of justice

Chinese saga of wrongful conviction finally ends after 16 years

A Chinese man who was sentenced to death and spent 12 years in prison for the rape and murder of a child was awarded US$160,000 compensation after his conviction was overturned, a court said. Li Huailiang stood trial seven times and was given three different sentences for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Pingdingshan in August 2001, Xinhua reported.

The farmer was condemned to death, then death with a two-year reprieve – a sentence normally commuted to life in prison – and after that, 15 years in jail.
Each time, the verdict was subsequently overturned “due to lack of evidence,’’ but he was not formally acquitted until April this year, when he was released from prison, Xinhua said. The Intermediate People’s Court in Pingdingshan, in central Henan, granted him 780,000 yuan (US$130,000) for the loss of “personal freedom’’ for 4,282 days spent in prison and a further 200,000 yuan for “psychological damage,’’ a statement posted on its website said.
Li had claimed 3.79 million yuan in total, the statement added.

Indian man freed by Delhi High Court after 14 years in prison

Bhupender Singh walked free on Friday after the Delhi High Court acquitted him of the 1999 murder of the wife of his former employer. Singh had been convicted in 2006, after fingerprints were found in his employers house. The fingerprint evidence was highly contentious, and never dealt with satisfactorily, but the High Court has now decided that Singh can go free, because there was not sufficient evidence for the conviction.

Read more here… HC acquits man of murder 14 yrs after he was jailed

UK Innocence Project case to be heard at Court of Appeal

Some great news from the UK: The Cardiff Law School Innocence Project (see here...), operating since 2005, has had a case referred back to the Court of Appeal in England and Wales, via the Criminal Cases Review Commission. See the official press release here: Commission refers the murder conviction of Dwaine George to the to the Court of Appeal

This case centres upon gunshot residue evidence, with the students at the project providing the CCRC with a new expert report. The Innocence Project Director, Julie Price, has been writing a blog about the challenges of running an Innocence Project and has written about the news here… Whilst it is indeed time for reflection, and this is not a ‘victory’ in that the appeal still has to be won, it is surely a good day for all of us in the UK who hoped that Innocence Projects in this country could make a difference.

Sad news from UK – the death of Susan May – wrongly convicted.

_70427007_susanintI have previously written on this blog of the case of Susan May (see here… ) a brave lady who served 12 years in prison for the murder of her aunt, a murder she almost certainly did not commit. The sad news is that Susan May has not lived to see her conviction overturned, and she passed away last week. This is very sad news indeed and all wrongful conviction campaigners send their condolences to her family, friends, and her many many supporters. They will continue to fight her conviction.

read more here…

Susan May: Murder case woman dies before appeal ruling

Hope at last for UK’s Susan May, wrongly convicted 20 yrs ago?

Susan May always denied murdering her auntIt is unusual to find criminal cases where large numbers of individuals are prepared to put their head above the parapet and state that they wholly believe in their innocence, regardless of having failed to date to overturn their conviction. Susan May’s case is one of the few. Convicted in 1993 of killing her 87 year old aunt, Susan served 12 years in prison before being released, the first life sentenced prisoner to be released while still proclaiming their innocence. Susan and her supporters however, have never given up trying to prove her innocence and have her murder conviction overturned. After all these years, there is still some hope. Internationally renowned fingerprint expert Arie Zeelenberg has writte a report that the ‘fingerprints in blood’ that were the main prosecution evidence were not, in fact, in blood at all, and were most likely left before the crime. Zeelenberg’s report is now with the CCRC, who are considering her case for referral again, back at the Court of Appeal. I sincerely hope that Susan May’s nightmare may soon be over. Read more here….

New evidence may clear woman convicted of murder 21 years ago

Susan May’s 20-year fight against murder conviction

Strict UK compensation rules for exonerees soon to be passed

Strict new rules which will severely restrict the ability to obtain compensation for those who have had convictions overturned in the courts of England and Wales, look set to be passed. Earlier blog posts have detailed these changes (here….and here…) and now, former ‘Birmingham Six’ member, Billy Power, has spoken out. It is very rare for Mr Power to speak to the media, and his clear concerns about the new rules are prompting him, and others, to try and raise the issue, which seems to be entirely evading any political or public debate at all. imageRead Mr Power’s views here…

Birmingham Six member warns over changes to UK miscarriage of justice rules

And more reaction here:

Criminal compensation reforms would shift burden of proof on to victims

More calls in New Zealand for independent justice review committee

In light of this week’s decision at the Privy Council to overturn the murder conviction of New Zealand citizen Mark Lundy (see earlier post here….), ongoing debate surrounding the need for an independent review commission, along the lines of the UK’s Criminal Cases Review Commissions, has again been sparked. An earlier post here…. detailed how New Zealand authorities have long been contemplating the creation of a post-appeal review body, but they have so far resisted calls. See an interesting news piece here…. untitled

Call for justice review committee for miscarriages