Pioneered a new form of pro bono assistance for alleged victims of miscarriages of justice in the UK
Between January 2005 and May 2015, I was founder and director of the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP), the first innocence project in the UK. It saw me pioneer a new “access to justice” initiative and new form of Clinical Legal Education (CLE) into UK Higher Education. More specifically, student volunteers investigated alleged wrongful convictions on a pro bono basis under my direct supervision, with input from criminal appeal lawyers and forensic experts where appropriate. It contributed to the first ever case referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (R v Hall, 20110 and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Beck v Her Majesty’s Advocate, 2013) back to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and the High Court of Justiciary, respectively, following submissions/applications by a UK innocence project.
The method that I developed for screening applications and for investigating alleged wrongful convictions with the University of Bristol Innocence Project became the blueprint for investigating cases for the innocence projects that I helped to set up under the auspices of Innocence Network UK (INUK) (see below).
Created and inspired a national network of organisations in universities and beyond for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice on a pro bono basis
Between September 2004 and May 2015, I was founder and director of Innocence Network UK (INUK). It was based on the findings of my research on alleged miscarriages of justice and the limits of redress. In short, innocent people are routinely wrongly convicted and imprisoned in the UK and the way that the criminal appeal system and the Criminal Cases Review Commission/Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission work means that those wrongful convictions can fail to be overturned and innocent people can be, and are, languishing in prison unable to clear their names and achieve their freedom. Innocence Network UK (INUK) was established, then, to highlight these research findings and to facilitate the setting up and subsequent running of innocence projects, like those that originated in the United States, dedicated to investigating and overturning wrongful convictions.
Under the auspices of Innocence Network UK (INUK), 36 Innocence Projects were established in the UK, 35 in universities and one in the London office of an American corporate law firm.
In December 2014, Dwaine George’s conviction for murder became the first case overturned by an innocence project in the UK. It followed a referral by Innocence Network UK (INUK) to a member innocence project to follow up on identified lines of further investigation.
For more information see: http://www.innocencenetwork.org.uk
Influenced a new regime for dealing with prisoners maintaining innocence
I conducted the first (and, to date, only) piece of empirical research on the obstacles and barriers to progression and release for life-sentenced prisoners maintaining innocence. The abridged findings were published in the Prison Service Journal as: ‘Factual Innocence versus Legal Guilt: The Need for a New Pair of Spectacles to view the Problem of Life-Sentenced Prisoners Maintaining Innocence’ . This article and follow-up meetings with senior representatives of NOMS/Ministry of Justice influenced a new way of dealing with prisoners maintaining innocence by influencing reforms to Prison Service Order (PSO) 4700, which governs the treatment of indeterminate sentenced prisoners. Crucially, prison and probation staff in prisons in England and Wales are now instructed to recognise, officially, that some prisoners maintaining innocence are, in fact, innocent and to deal with them on this basis rather than seeing them all as merely “deniers”. The full research findings are published in Chapter 5 of The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System.
Influenced new rules of access and disclosure of evidence for alleged victims of wrongful convictions
The third party intervention at the Supreme Court in the case of R (Nunn) v Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary on behalf of Innocence Network UK (INUK) was underpinned by my research on the operations of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in dealing with applications from alleged innocent victims of miscarriages of justice. It contributed to positive reforms to the existing Attorney General’s rules on disclosure and access to evidence post-conviction for alleged victims of wrongful convictions. Click here for more information.
Influenced the agenda on wrongful conviction research in the United States
In 2010, I was invited as an international expert by National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the US Department of Justice, to participate in two-days of workshops to form the basis for future federal research and policy on wrongful convictions in the US. ‘International perspectives on wrongful convictions’, Washington, D.C., United States, 13-14 September. My research is cited variously in the anonymous report of the proceedings and I was one of a small number of delegates who was invited to provide authored contributions in the official report, and the only delegate to have two entries. Click here for the official report.
Influenced a new right of appeal against alleged wrongful convictions in South Australia
In 2011, I was consulted by The Hon. Stephen Wade MLC, Shadow Attorney-General, South Australia, as part of the inquiry by the Legislative Review Committee into the Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill 2010. I was cited extensively in the official report to the Parliament of South Australia, which embraced my submissions and recommended a new right of appeal for alleged victims of wrongful convictions rather than the setting up of a Criminal Cases Review Commission-style body in South Australia. Click here for the Report.
Other examples of influencing: national and international
2016: Invited visit to Armenia as part of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) British Horizons: British Professional Exchange Programme to advise various governmental and non-governmental organisations on issues relating to the causation and remedy of miscarriages of justice, Feburay 1-6. Click here for more information.
2015: Invited Oral evidence to the Parliamentary Justice Committee, House of Commons, on the limitations of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in dealing with applications from alleged innocent victims of miscarriages of justice. January. Click here for a transcript on the Parliament website.
2014: Invited expert submission on the work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission to the Parliamentary Justice Committee, the content of which contributed to a decision to have a full public consultation (2014). Click here for submission.
2012: Invited expert submission to the Ministry of Justice’s Triennial Review of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (2012).
2012: Invited international expert at the International Conference on the Issues of Life-term Prisoners in Yerevan, Armenia, November 20-22. Paper entitled: ‘Innocence projects and DNA testing in reviewing claims of innocence by life-sentenced prisoners maintaining innocence’. Click here for more information.
2012: Invited international expert at the International Conference on the Prevention of Wrongful Convictions, Senior Prosecutors Research and Advanced Study Center of Jilin Province, ChangChun, China, 6-8 August: paper entitled: ‘Preventing Wrongful Convictions in England and Wales: Abortions of Justice versus Miscarriages of Justice’. Click here for more information.
2010: Invited by John McDonnell MP to give a presentation at the House of Commons on the findings of my research on the limits of the criminal appeals system to deal with claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of miscarriages of justice, 2 December.
2005: Consulted by Claire Curtis-Thomas MP on miscarriages of justice and the criminal justice system, July.
2006: Invited by Bruce Kent, Chair of Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence (PPMI), to give a presentation at the House of Commons based on my research on prisoners maintaining innocence, May.
2005: Invited by the Home Office to consult senior representatives of criminal justice system agencies (Parole Board, Criminal Cases Review Commission, prisons, probation, prison psychology) on my research on the obstacles and barriers to progression and release for prisoners maintaining innocence, Home Office, London, July.