“Living or working in prison, or visiting someone in your family, you will know that many prisons, especially local jails, are struggling to reduce violence and self-harm. With fewer experienced officers and limited resources, they are up against a tide of threats and drugs.” Juliet Lyons, Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody. From Inside Time, October 2018.
Miscarriages of justice happen. Even in the best legal systems. Most people believe that there are systems in place to put things right. The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was set up following the notorious cases of the Guilford 4 and the Birmingham 6 to do just that.
But it doesn’t work like that in reality. The CCRC is often unable to help victims of wrongful conviction. The prisoner has been found guilty by a court and therefore remains guilty in the eyes of the public as well as the Criminal Justice System; and it does not stop there.
Release from prison on tariff expiry (the minimum term set by the judge) for those serving life or indeterminate sentences is usually only from Category D prisons, unless exceptional circumstances apply. This means that, to achieve release, a prisoner must first progress from a higher category (A or B) to a lower category (D). But recat and parole decisions rely on risk-assessments, and these are based on findings of guilt – there are no tools for those maintaining innocence. For this reason, release can be more difficult to achieve for these prisoners, and there are some who serve many years beyond tariff expiry. Similar problems are faced by prisoners serving a determinate sentence with a parole element (usually the last third of the sentence).
To challenge the policy and practice in the current system through which prisoners who maintain their innocence are reviewed and progressed.Objectives
- Innovation of Justice held two events last month: on Saturday 22 June, there was a day with talks. This was well attended, with two programmes running in separate rooms. Speakers included Paul Hill (Birmingham Six) and Eddie Gilfoyle. On the following Monday, 24 June, there was a demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice. About 60 people were there, with assorted banners from many different groups supporting the victims of miscarriages of justice. At the beginning of the protest, mouths were voluntarily taped to represent being silenced by the Criminal Justice System.
- Inside Time, June 2019. There is a new PPMI article on p.42 of the prisoners’ newspaper: “Prisoners maintaining innocence blocked by poor risk assessments”. It is available on the Inside Time website.
- Networking event, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 6 September, 2019. 12.00 – 4.00. The event is organised by easyjail.co.uk and is for anybody affected by miscarriages of justice. For further information go to http://www.easyjail.co.uk/events .