UoB Innocence Project receives pro-bono award for ‘excellence’ on 30-year-old case
Press release issued: 19 October 2012
The University of Bristol Innocence Project [UoBIP] has received the 2012 Pro Bono Award at the Bristol Law Society’s Annual Awards in recognition of its work in obtaining an appeal for the 30-year old case of William (‘Wullie’) Beck.
The award, which recognises ‘excellence’ in pro bono work, was presented to UoBIP members for their work on the case of Wullie Beck, who was arrested in 1981 for an armed robbery of a post van. Mr Beck served six years of imprisonment for his conviction based exclusively on eyewitness identification.
After taking on the case in 2011 under the guidance of Dr Michael Naughton and Gabe Tan, postgraduate law students Mark Allum and Ryan Jendoubi undertook detailed research into Mr Beck’s case and made two submissions to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. They contended that a combination of factors rendered a real likelihood of a miscarriage of justice in Mr Beck’s case. In addition to the ‘flimsy nature’ of the eyewitness identification evidence that underpinned his conviction, they argued that the judge had made several serious errors in the way in which he had directed the jury.
Thanks to the work of the UoBIP, who spent an estimated 2,000 hours on Mr Beck’s case, it has now been referred back to the High Court of Justiciary after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission agreed his conviction may be unsafe.
Dr Michael Naughton at the University of Bristol Law School and School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, said: “We are thrilled to have received this award. Not only is this testament to the team’s tireless commitment to Mr Beck’s case but also to the calibre of their research and submissions to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission [SCCRC]. There has been 1,500 cases applied to the SCCRC and only about 100 cases have been referred. It is an honour for our work to have been recognised in this way.”
The ADRg-sponsored award was one of several awarded to legal professionals commended for excellence by members of Bristol Law Society, one of the country’s largest and oldest law societies in the country. The event took place at the Bristol Law Society Annual Awards Dinner on the 18 October at the Bristol City Marriot Hotel.
About University of Bristol Innocence Project [UoBIP]
The University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP), the first innocence project in the UK, is an extra-curricular pro bono legal clinic which teaches law through working on real cases of alleged wrongful convictions. Established in January 2005 by Dr Michael Naughton, the UoBIP undertakes thorough and objective investigations into cases of alleged victims of wrongful conviction who have exhausted the normal appeals process and legal aid with the aim of ascertaining the validity of their claims of innocence. Intensely supervised by academic staff and assisted, where appropriate, by forensic scientists and criminal appeal lawyers, the UoBIP assists those who are found to be potentially innocent by making applications and submissions to the Criminal Cases Review Commission or the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to support a referral of the case back to the Court of Appeal (in England and Wales) or the High Court of Justiciary (in Scotland) The UoBIP is also the founding member of the Innocence Network UK (INUK) which has actively supported the establishment of 34 innocence projects based in universities across England, Scotland and Wales.
Dr Michael Naughton is a Reader in Sociology and Law with joint appointments in the Law School and the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), University of Bristol. He has specialised in the area of wrongful convictions for over a decade and has written extensively on the subject. He is the Founder and Director of the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP), through which he directs student investigations into real cases of alleged wrongful convictions. He is also the Founder and Director of the Innocence Network UK (INUK) which he established in September 2004 to facilitate casework, research and communications in the area of wrongful convictions.