Reports

PPMI Annual Report 2019

A brief reminder of our activities over the last twelve months:

In November, all prisoners who have written to PPMI were sent a Christmas card with a letter giving news of the public meeting in December and asking them to tell us of any changes in their situation.

In December, we held our public meeting in a House of Commons committee room. Dean Kingham spoke about risk assessments and the way these can impact on the chances of making progress for a prisoner who maintains innocence. Dr. Tully, a forensic psychologist, gave us her – rather different – perspective on the issue, and two released prisoners, Cookie and Chris Osborne, spoke movingly about their experiences. This was followed by a lively discussion. At the meeting were: ex-prisoners, family and friends of prisoners, representatives of a number of organisations and groups who are concerned with miscarriages of justice, law students, solicitors and others. The occasion was a useful opportunity for people from different back-grounds, but who shared our concerns, to meet and talk and PPMI made a number of new contacts. Arranging a successful meeting of this kind involves a large amount of preparatory work. Many thanks to all who contributed.

In January, some of us attended the first public meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on miscarriages of justice. As with our own meeting, this was attended by a wide range of people, demonstrating the strength of feeling about and interest in the issues. We heard from 3 excellent speakers about the very serious problems that can be faced by someone who has won an appeal, after release.

The meeting was preceded by an informal get-together, arranged by MoJO (Miscarriages of Justice) Scotland. This resulted in a number of new contacts with Scottish prisoners,and Sue and myself have had to do some work so that we can understand how the Scottish system relates to the English system.

In February, Sue had a meeting with Ryan Harman of the Prison Reform Trust, for us to learn more about what they do and for them to get to know about our work. Sue also discussed possible improvements to their information leaflet for those maintaining innocence.

In March, Sue and Bruce joined Gloria and others from JENGbA, for a demonstration about Kevin Thakrar outside the Ministry of Justice.

In April, Sue and myself met Ashley Mote to discuss how he could assist us in preparing submissions for the All Party Parliamentary Group and other publicity material. Also, Danny Barrs wrote an information sheet for determinate sentence prisoners who maintain innocence and this is now available on our website. Thanks to Danny for that.

In May, David Shaw resigned as our treasurer, after more than 10 years faithful service. Thanks to David from me and from all of us. Gerry McFlynn has agreed to take on the position. Thanks to Gerry for agreeing to this.

In June, Sue, Margaret and Gloria attended a meeting in London organised by Innovation of Justice. I am told that there were problems with the way the meeting was organised, but the idea of promoting contacts across a range of groups and individuals who share a common interest in wrong convictions, is clearly a good one. This was followed two days later by a vigil outside the Royal Courts of Justice. A large group gathered, there were banners, we all stuck tape over our mouths – to symbolise the failure of the authorities to listen to our concerns. There were speeches and photos and the event received some publicity. One woman, with a relative in prison who maintains his innocence, told me how helpful it was to realise that she was not alone.

Also in June, Inside Time published an article from me about risk assessments and maintaining innocence. In it I argued that the Parole Board accepts ways of measuring continued risk which assume, without evidence, that maintaining innocence is in itself a risk factor. Dean Kingham has written on this topic and he spoke about it at our December meeting, but the purpose of the article was to give the points wider publicity among the prison population, and also to encourage more prisoners to write to us at PPMI.

In July and September there were meetings of the Westminster Commission on the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has been set up by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Miscarriages of Justice. These were attended by the usual suspects, Sue has made a submission for PPMI and she has copies for anyone interested.

Through the year, there have been visits to prisoners by Sue, Bruce and others.

Also through the year, Sue has received and replied to a large and increasing volume of correspondence from prisoners and, in smaller numbers, from their families. We now have contact with 300 prisoners, an increase of 60 since last year. Most of these have also completed our questionnaire.

Over the year, we have been doing a lot to get the word out about PPMI. Making sure that prisoners who maintain innocence, and their friends and families, know that we exist, that we know about the challenges they face, especially around making progress towards release, and we want to help. We have also raised our profile with other groups and organisations who have a concern about miscarriages of justice. All of this is important and I’d like to acknowledge the time and effort that many of you have put in to helping us get this far. It raises the question: where to do we go from here? We have other items to get through for our AGM, but the final item is ‘Future Plans’ and this will be an opportunity for us to discuss what we want to achieve in the next twelve months.

John Stokes.   Chair