An introduction to wrongful convictions and how they might be challenged is the focus of a new book launched by the University of Bristol.
Entitled Claims of Innocence, the book, which is available to download free of charge, describes how innocent people can be wrongly convicted, how the criminal appeals system can fail and even obstruct the overturning of convictions given to the innocent. It details how alleged wrongful convictions may be investigated and appropriately challenged, providing a six-stage methodology for such a task.
The book by Dr Michael Naughton (with Gabe Tan) is underpinned by a decade of academic work on wrongful convictions and practical attempts to overturn alleged wrongful conviction as part of his work with the Innocence Network UK (INUK) and the University of Bristol Innocence Project.
Funding for the book, published by University of Bristol, ISBN 978-0-9561001-3-9, came from the first-ever award made by the University of Bristol’s Impact Development Fund.
5,000 copies of the book were printed by LexisNexis for free distribution to UK prisons, sitting MPs and organisations in the UK and around the world that assist alleged innocent victims of wrongful convictions.
‘The withholding or lack of information was one of the most important factors in both my conviction and overlong incarceration. In 1978 when I was convicted, there were no information packs handed out in prison. I was ignorant of the case against me and of the legal process used to help convict me. I learned the rules and regulations of prison as they were used to batter me into submission. Information was one of the most important factors in my eventual release.’ – Paul Blackburn, 25 years of wrongful imprisonment
‘A much needed plain man’s guide for prisoners grappling with the nightmare of wrongful conviction.’ – Chris Mullin, Author, Error of Judgement
‘I am delighted to endorse this comprehensive book on wrongful convictions. In its clear and concise terms it will help readers start to grasp hold of a system which is overly complex and stacked against those who have been wrongfully convicted. The book will help all those who have suffered an injustice to have direction as they continue to fight to clear their names.’ – Mark Newby, Solicitor Advocate, Jordans LLP, Doncaster
‘This new book, through the legal complexities which face those maintaining innocence, is really invaluable. It is clear, detailed and realistic. There are some men and women in our prisons, wrongly convicted for a variety of reasons, who are actually innocent. This book will be for them and their families a ray of hope.’ – Bruce Kent, Chair, Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence (PPMI)
‘This book is refreshing in that it provides a balanced view of why people sometimes wrongly maintain their innocence and why others quite correctly insist they are factually innocent of crimes for which they have been convicted and wrongly imprisoned. The brief case studies make powerful reading and remind us that a lot still needs to be done to improve our system of justice.’ – Michael Barnes, Secretary, Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (FACT)
‘After reading “Claims of Innocence”, I can only endorse it because I served sentences with some of the people in this book and know them to be innocent. What society must remember is that for every innocent man and woman convicted of murder a guilty killer is on our streets ready to kill again’ – Bobby Cummines, Chief Executive, UNLOCK
‘We are pleased to be able to support the book as part of our commitment to support the ‘Rule of Law’ around the world. We often think of the ‘Rule of Law’ in terms of helping create a system of law or government in countries without clearly written and accessible laws or constitutions. However, even in mature democracies, the ‘Rule of Law’ still needs to be effectively upheld’ – Tom Laidlaw, Head of Academic Development, LexisNexis
See also: review in Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities 1(1): 157-160.