Potential wrongful convictions: dossier of cases published
Press release issued: 29 March 2012
The Innocence Network UK (INUK) today, publishes a dossier of 45 cases of alleged innocent victims of wrongful conviction. All of these cases have been refused a referral back to the Court of Appeal at least once by the Criminal Cases Review Commission despite continuing doubts about the evidence that led to their convictions.
The cases included in the dossier comprise mainly of prisoners who are serving life or long-term sentences for serious offences, ranging from gangland murders, armed robbery, rape and other sexual offences. All of them continue to maintain that they have no involvement at all in the offences they were convicted of despite having failed in their appeal and refused a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. They assert that they were wrongly convicted due to reasons including fabricated confessions, eyewitness misidentification, police misconduct, flawed expert evidence, false allegations and false witness testimonies.
INUK believes that there are continuing doubts and inconsistencies about each conviction. However, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, established to review alleged miscarriages of justice is unable to assist them because their cases are deemed to not fulfil the ‘real possibility test’. Under the current statute, the Criminal Cases Review Commission can only refer cases back to the Court of Appeal if there is a ‘real possibility’ that the conviction would be overturned. The Criminal Cases Review Commission is also generally confined to reviewing fresh evidence not available at the time of trial.
Because evidence suggesting innocence in these cases is not fresh or the jury has decided to convict despite hearing conflicting evidence, the Criminal Cases Review Commission is unable to refer these cases back to the Court of Appeal.
The dossier underlines the urgent need for reforms to the Criminal Cases Review Commission to ensure that such cases can be more adequately dealt with.
Dr Michael Naughton, Founder and Director of INUK and Senior Lecturer at the School of Law and School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) at the University, said today, “The crimes that these men and women are convicted of are appalling but in every single case there are questions, conflicts and problems in the evidence that led to their conviction. If they are genuinely innocent, it means that the dangerous criminals who committed these crimes remain at liberty with the potential to commit further serious crimes.”
In several cases, prisoners were convicted mainly on the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who were either known criminals or suffer from serious mental or personality disorders. In other cases, convictions were obtained mainly on the basis of highly conflicting identity parade evidence. Many were also convicted despite evidence suggesting innocence such as alibi witnesses outweighing the alleged evidence of guilt.
David Jessel a former CCRC Commissioner now argues that rather than being tied to the ‘real possibility test’ ‘the CCRC could refer because of its own independent concerns that justice has miscarried, while the Court of Appeal would have to answer that case and, if necessary, justify its conclusions that the conviction was safe.’
Gabe Tan is the Executive Director of INUK and deals with prisoners seeking assistance on a daily basis. “Many of the prisoners in the dossier have served two or even three decades in prison. They would have been released on parole much earlier had they admitted guilt to the crimes that they were convicted of. The Criminal Cases Review Commission is unable to help them despite strengths in their claims of innocence. Unless the existing arrangements are reformed, these cases are never going away.”
A number of these cases will be highlighted at a Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) funded symposium which will be held at Norton Rose LLP this Friday, 30 March 2012. Speaking at the symposium are alleged victims of wrongful conviction Susan May and Eddie Gilfoyle, both of whom are widely believed to be innocent of the murders that they were convicted of. Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six case that led to the setting up of the Criminal Cases Review Commission will speak of his dismay with how the organisation is failing innocent victims of wrongful conviction. They will be joined by criminal appeal barristers and solicitors, investigative journalists, academics and former Commissioners of the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
For full details visit the Innocence Network UK website.
The article is covered in the Guardian, Lawyer 2B, the Northern Echo, Durham Times, Lancashire Evening Post, Sunderland Echo, the Watford Observer and the Manchester Evening News, Bromsgrove Advertiser and The Times [Friday 13 April]