Category Archives: United Kingdom

UK’s restrictive compensation scheme for exonerees upheld by High Court

In a long running issue over exoneree compensation in the UK – or the lack of it – that I have blogged on previously (here…,here… and here)  Sam Hallam and Victor Nealon, who spent 24 years in prison between them, have now lost their argument that UK law wrongly restricts compensation in miscarriage of justice cases. Hallam and Nealon’s solicitors had judicially reviewed the government decision to not compensate them for the years they spent imprisoned when innocent.untitled

The Secretary of State for Justice denied Nealon compensation for his years in jail, on the grounds that the Court of Appeal’s verdict  – which said that  “the fresh evidence has not ‘demolished’ the prosecution case” – meant that he was not a victim of a miscarriage of justice. In Hallam’s case – his appeal judgement partially laid the blame for his wrongful conviction at his door as the phone evidence that exonerated him 7 years after his conviction had been in his possession.

On Monday, Nealon and Hallam lost their bid to persuade British judges to accept that denying compensation broke the European Convention on Human Rights. The case is the first legal challenge to be heard to the decision to narrow eligibility grounds for compensation, which effectively requires people to prove that they did not commit the crime.

Wrongfully jailed men lose high court actions in battle for compensation

Irish man fails in compensation bid against British government

Victor Nealon falsely imprisoned for 17 years denied compensation

 

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Irish Innocence Project Confirms Pardon

From the Irish Times:

Almost 75 years after Harry Gleeson was hanged for murder, Minister Frances Fitzgerald has officially announced the Government’s decision to grant a posthumous pardon.

The Government has determined the conviction was unsafe and will advise the President to exercise his right of pardon under Article 13.6 of the Constitution.

In February 1941, Mr Gleeson was convicted of murdering mother of seven Mary McCarthy, who died of gunshot wounds to the face.

He had found her body lying in a field on his uncle’s farm in New Inn, Co Tipperary the year before.

He was sentenced to death and was executed in Mountjoy Prison in April 1941.

The Attorney General directed an independent review of the case after a submission from the Irish Innocence Project and the Justice for Harry Gleeson Group.

Barrister Shane Murphy SC, who reviewed the case, concluded there were deficiencies in the conviction rendering it unsafe. In his opinion, the conviction was based on unconvincing circumstantial evidence.

“The Government deeply regrets that a man was convicted and executed in circumstances now found to be unsafe. All that can be done now by way of remedy is to clear his name of the conviction, which this pardon will do, in the hope that this will be a proper tribute to his memory,” said a statement from the Department of Justice.

“Equally the Government regrets that this decision leaves unresolved the brutal murder of Ms Mary McCarthy, whose children were deprived of their mother in terrible circumstances.”

The Government expressed sympathy with both families.

“They’ve waited a long time,” said David Langwallner, director of the Irish Innocence Project, an organisation that provides free legal services to people wrongfully convicted of crimes.

The project submitted its case for a posthumous pardon, which included new evidence, to the Department of Justice in 2013.

Langwallner said the pardon is conclusive acknowledgement that, not only was the evidence insufficient, but that Mr Gleeson was innocent.

Grand-nephew Kevin Gleeson said it was an emotional day for his family.

“It’s great to see that, once and for all, the good name of Harry Gleeson has finally been restored. His innocence is no longer an issue and can never be questioned again.

“It’s been a burden and a shadow over our family for the last 74 years. The announcement today goes somewhat to remove that burden and shadow off us.”

Bernadette Gorman, whose father Billy lived and worked with Mr Gleeson, said of the trial: “[My father] was a crucial witness, and he was silenced … He never really got over it.”

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Breaking News: Irish Innocence Project Exonerates Executed Man…

From RTE:

A man who was hanged for murder over 70 years ago is due to be pardoned.

Harry Gleeson was executed for the murder of Moll Mc Carthy who was shot dead in Tipperary in November 1940.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is due to bring a memo to Cabinet in the next few weeks recommending the President pardon Mr Gleeson.

The Department of Justice reviewed the case following a submission last year from the Irish Innocence Project, based at Griffith College in Dublin.

RTÉ News understands that the review, conducted by Senior Counsel Shane Murphy concluded accepted new evidence which merited a pardon being granted to Harry Gleeson.

A neighbour of Ms Mc Carthy, an unmarried mother of seven, Harry Gleeson reported the discovery of her body.

Three months later he was hanged for her murder.

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…. 

CCRC decides to fast-track review of Chis Evan’s high-profile conviction, but no clear reasons given

The UK Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has decided to prioritise its review of Chris Evan’s high-profile conviction. The Guardian reports that:

It would normally take around 18 months for the commission, which has a staff of 90, to examine a claim of miscarriage of justice. Instead, the commission has taken the unusual decision to examine Evans’s case within weeks. […] However, [the CCRC spokesman] said that, after a request from Evans’s legal team to prioritise the case, “in line with our published policy on prioritisation, and in relation to the facts of the case and the issues raised in Mr Evans’s application to us … we now expect our substantive investigation to begin within the next few weeks.”

Problem is when the CCRC does not give any clear reasons as to why it chose to prioritise this case, particularly when it is has a huge existing back-log and this is high-profile case.

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New Scholarship Spotlight: Criminologizing Wrongful Convictions

Professor Michael Naughten has posted the above-titled article on The British Journal of Criminology.  Download here.  The abstract states:

This article considers the apparent lack of serious engagement with issues pertaining to wrongful convictions by criminology at present. It seeks to address this by criminologizing wrongful convictions in two senses: firstly, by highlighting a variety of forms of intentional law or rule breaking by police officers and prosecutors in the causation of wrongful convictions that in other circumstances would likely be treated as crime and dealt with as such; and, secondly, to reveal the extent to which such powerful criminal justice system agents can cause profound and wide-ranging forms of harm to victims of wrongful convictions, their families and society as a whole with almost total impunity. In so doing, the relevance of the study of the intentional forms of crime and deviance committed by criminal justice system agents in the manufacture of wrongful convictions to both arms of the criminological divide is emphasized: mainstream and critical criminology. The overall aim is to show that the study of wrongful convictions can further extend and enrich existing criminological epistemology in vital and important ways and can even contribute to the prevention and possible elimination of those that are caused deliberately.

 

What’s Next for Innocence Work in the UK?

From thejusticegap.com:  By Hannah Quirk

The End of Innocence, and The Chance of a New Beginning

The sudden demise of the Innocence Network UK (INUK) has caused consternation amongst those working with students on miscarriage of justice cases  – but it also offers a chance for anew beginning in clinical legal education in this country. Following my work at the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and an American innocence project, I argued in 2006, that criminal justice policy transfers between these two countries are not straightforward. Now seems a good opportunity to revisit some of those concerns.

Many of the problems with the work of INUK stem from the fact that it was just assumed that innocence projects were a good idea in this country. Innocence Projects in the USA are a commendable – if wholly inadequate – response to the appalling numbers who are wrongly convicted, with no hope of post-conviction legal assistance. These projects investigate and litigate cases that can also help campaign for criminal justice reforms. The situation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is very different (Scotland has its own body).

In this country, a range of measures governing the collection and use of evidence has reduced the most egregious errors – the television series Life on Mars was founded on the audience recognising how policing had changed since the 1970s. Unlike in the USA, very few cases turn on DNA analysis which means that most appeals are on the basis of unsafety – we can never know with certainty whether the individuals were factually innocent or not. The nature of the caseload in this country is different; there far more are domestic sex abuse cases which bring unique investigatory challenges. Most significantly, we have a state funded body that investigates miscarriages of justice and refers cases back to the appeal court where appropriate.

Rather than continuing trying to shoehorn the work being done into the Innocence Network’s (trademarked) template, we have an opportunity to reflect on the experience gained over the last decade and consider the best way to proceed. Now is the time to think about what these projects are trying to achieve and what kind of assistance they can offer those claiming to be wrongly convicted. This needs to take into account the different types of cases in this country, the different level of legal education (undergraduate here rather than post-graduate in America) and how to work with the CCRC which remains the only mechanism for getting a conviction quashed. The most important consideration is, of course, how appellants are treated but there are also questions about students that require attention.

Assuming the university-led work is to continue, at what the CCRC chairman has said is a challenging time for his organisation, the following points are important:

  • Should ‘innocence’ be in the name? It is a compelling title but – as the projects have discovered – vanishingly few cases are of demonstrable innocence. The legal test that students need to apply is ‘unsafety’ – boring, bureaucratic but infinitely more protective of both suspects and the integrity of the criminal justice system. We should be teaching students – some of whom will become defence lawyers, prosecutors, police officers, journalists or politicians – why that test is so important. Students at the University of Northumbria who worked on Alex Allen’s successful referral and compensation claim, work from the Student Law Office for example.
  • What work should the students undertake? As Michael Naughton explained in his statement about INUK’s future, the realities of the undergraduate curriculum mean that it is difficult for students to dedicate sufficient time to a case. Any case that is not concluded in the academic year, has to wait to be reallocated, new students have to familiarise themselves with the case – and more time is lost for the applicant. This is unsatisfactory for students who do not see a case to completion, and dispiriting for applicants and their loved ones. In cases where there is a potential referral, this can mean a person spending years longer in prison than if they had gone directly to the CCRC. It might be more profitable for all concerned, if students focused on writing applications to the CCRC for applicants and monitoring the case progression, (as I understand students at the University of Leeds Innocence Project do). Research has indicated that CCRC applicants with legal assistance have a greater success rate). Those projects that want students to undertake investigations could focus on cases that have already been rejected by the CCRC so there is nothing to lose by any delay caused.
  • What should students not do? Emily Bolton, who founded the Innocence Project New Orleans(IPNO) and is now establishing the Centre for Criminal Appeals said in an interview the answers are not going to be in the office or on the phone but found by knocking on doors and revisiting crime scenes. If I’m missing a fact, I get my car keys and get out and find someone who can give me the answers.’ This encapsulates exactly why the US experience cannot be imported here – such actions could fatally compromise an appeal if the Court of Appeal considers it has been tainted. There are also risks to students engaging in such work – whether in contacting potential witnesses, sex offenders who enjoy rehearsing the details of their cases, or through the distressing nature of some of what they read. Kevin McMahon, founder of Merseyside Against Injustice, was convicted of perverting the course of justice for seeking a retraction statement from a prosecution witness before an appeal hearing.

In 2005, I left the CCRC and spent six months working at IPNO. I planned to conduct a piece of research comparing how miscarriages of justice are dealt with in the UK and the USA. Within a week, I realised that my project would have to change – the two systems were worlds apart.

I had left a well-funded, stable institution with statutory investigative powers, for an office that was scrabbling for funding, run by a handful of overworked staff supported by interns, was literally being eaten by termites, faced huge resistance from the police and prosecutors and was shortly to have to cope with Hurricane Katrina.

I was filled with admiration for the work of innocence projects but returned home with a renewed appreciation of the – obviously imperfect – system in this country. I found it baffling that the American model was being looked to for inspiration when what we had here was so much better.

None of this is intended as a criticism of those who have worked very hard to establish these projects over the last decade, but good intentions can still have unfortunate consequences. These cases are amongst the most difficult in the criminal justice system – despite all the problems with the National Health Service, most of us would be uncomfortable at the idea of medical students attempting brain surgery. Whilst the Americans may love Sherlock, importing the Scooby Doo model here (‘… and I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!’) is not necessarily the answer.

To misquote George Bernard Shaw, when it comes to wrongful convictions, America and England are separated by much more than a common language. This country has led the world in its response to wrongful convictions. Maybe the furore over INUK marks the time to set out on charting our own distinctive course in clinical legal education.

 

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