Injustice victims given new chance
Victims of miscarriages of justice have helped set up a network to enable academics, lawyers and those wrongly accused of crimes in the past to research cases of prisoners who say they have been falsely convicted. Criminals who have exhausted their appeals process will be able to ask the organisation – known as the Innocence Network UK – to review their cases. Lawyers and activists will see whether there are any new grounds which could be put before the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
The Lord Chancellor’s Department statistics show that since 1985 more than 85,000 verdicts have been overturned on appeal. Those involved in establishing the network, which will be initially based at Bristol University, include Paddy Hill, who was freed in 1991 after being wrongly convicted of the Birmingham 1974 pub bombings that killed 21, and Michael O’Brien, one of three men known as the Cardiff Three, who were wrongly jailed for the killing of Philip Saunders in 1987.
Also involved in the network is Robert Brown, who was freed on appeal after 25 years in prison for the murder of Annie Walsh in 1977, and the broadcaster and author Sir Ludovic Kennedy. Similar organisations have been set up in Australia and the US.
A state-based network, known as the Innocence Panel, was set up in Sydney to enable prisoners to prove their innocence through DNA. However, the New South Wales police minister, John Watkins, suspended the panel last year, saying insufficient checks and balances were in place to stop victims of crime suffering further anguish.
But Dr Michael Naughton, a criminal law lecturer at Bristol University who is involved with the UK network, said yesterday that the justice system could not cope with the volume of people asserting they have been wrongly jailed.