“Miscarriages of justice have a truly devastating consequence for those who are convicted. It is vital the state does everything it can to prevent them from occurring in the first place. When miscarriages do happen the state has to ensure there are quick and effective mechanisms in place to correct them. Currently those obligations aren’t being met.” (Barry Shearman MP, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Miscarriages of Justice) August 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.