“It has become increasingly difficult for lawyers to obtain justice in the prison system due to the cuts in legal aid. Only by putting legal and political pressure on Prison Ministers and the Government can change come about.” Imran Khan, human rights lawyer. Unfortunately there is no longer Legal Aid to help with re-categorisation, problems with sentence progression or pre-tariff reviews. (Posted April 2019)
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
- The All Party Parliamentary Group on Miscarriages of Justice held a meeting on 5th February. Barry Sheerman MP, Chair, announced that a Commission is to be set up to investigate, take evidence, and receive submissions etc. At the end of a lively meeting with presentations by Lucy Powell MP on JENGbA, and an appeals solicitor, the Chair asked for help and information from families and support groups, so that the APPG can feed evidence through to the government. Click on the report tab for a full account of the meeting.
- Support groups learn to work together: before the 9 January APPG meeting, there was an informal meeting of a number of support groups: PPMI, MoJO Scotland, FASO, JENGbA, Innovation for Justice and BFMS. Ways of working together were discussed.
- Inside Time article published: an article summarising the results of 200 replies to our questionnaire has been published in Inside Time. You can find it on their website, August edition, p.22.
- 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 .