The US leads the way internationally in exonerating innocent prisoners utilising DNA technology. In the UK, there has really only been one ‘DNA’ exoneration to date, that of Sean Hodgson in March 2009 (read here…) That case demonstrated shocking failings by the then major forensic science provider in the UK; the Forensic Science Service (now closed down). However, there is now a fresh appeal to be heard at the Court of Appeal, in the case of Victor Nealon.
Nealon, a postman, was convicted of attempted rape in 1997, and has been in prison protesting his innocence ever since. In TWO attempts to get his case back to the Court of Appeal via the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), Nealon’s lawyers were refused ‘speculative’ DNA testing. At trial, the prosecution had claimed that there no DNA evidence. In fact, the victims clothing had never even been tested. Now independent testing HAS revealed DNA on the victims clothing – and it belongs to a man other than Nealon. The CCRC have NOW finally decided to refer his case back the Court of Appeal.
Without even pre-empting what must surely be a foregone conclusion at the appeal courts, this case must surely raise questions about the CCRC and their refusal to undertake DNA testing. With all that is known about the power of forensic testing, and the fact that none had taken place previously in this case, what exactly was the Commission’s rationale for not permitting DNA testing? How often are they refusing such testing? Why has Nealon had to wait this long to get back to the Court of Appeal? These are surely just the first of many awkward questions that must be asked of the CCRC in this case. This is a miscarriage of justice heaped upon a wrongful conviction. Those who have faith in the ability of the CCRC to undertake reasonable investigations into alleged miscarriages of justice must now question that faith.
Interesting article. There have been a few other exonerations due to DNA (Michael Shirley for murder –  EWCA Crim1976 is one that springs to mind), but these have been ‘low profile’ ones.
The CCRC have been getting a fair amount of stick recently for their conservative views in approaching potential miscarriages of justice (good coverage here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/criminal-cases-review-commission?INTCMP=SRCH)
There was a set-back in the UK for the availability of post-conviction DNA testing in May : (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/1186.html)
Pingback: Victor Nealon’s conviction overturned by UK Court of Appeal after spending 17 years in jail | Wrongful Convictions Blog
Although the CCRC are at fault for not pursuing DNA testing in response to a request from Mr Nealon’s lawyers, I am more concerned with how the police and CPS were able state ‘that no forensic evidence was available ‘. When in fact no testing had ever taken place. I only hope that an independent authority is given the ability to look into this serious matter.
Pingback: Victor Nealon’s compensation claim turned down by British Ministry of Justice | Wrongful Convictions Blog