Atfirst look a miscarriage of justice may be due to the failure of a court orjudicial system to attain the ends of justice, especially one which results inthe conviction of an innocent person. However, it is a hard term to define asthe term itself can represent many different notions and even if narrowed tomean the conviction of a factually innocent person, the actual account ofinnocence is rarely agreed upon universally. (EnglishOxford Living Dictionaries, 2017) These miscarriages can also be a result of non-disclosure of evidence bythe police or prosecution, fabrication of evidence, poor identification,unreliable confessions due to police pressure or psychological instability andmisdirection by a judge during trial. Throughout this assignment the question ofwhether the Criminal Justice Process is effective in rectifying what islabelled as a miscarriage of justice will be contested.
Discontentwith the Criminal Justice System (CJS) arose in the early 1970’s after thePolice and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the main prosecuting agencywhere police had a dual role of investigating and prosecuting, began to fail,as shown by the case of Maxwell Confait in 1972. (True Crime Library, 2015). A campaign emerged in1974 known as the Confait Inquiry, to which Henry Fisher was asked by the Crown to examine the prosecution whichhad resulted in the conviction of three young men. (Everything2, 2017). On a reference by the Home Secretary, the Court of Appeal,presided over by Lord Scarman, all convictions were quashed. Fisher heardevidence from numerous witnesses and scrutinised a mass of documents. Heconcluded that there had been blatant disregard by the police of the Judges’Rules (designed to secure fair procedures for the interrogation of suspects)which led to all three suspects being exonerated immediately.
His forcefulreport recommended radical changes in the system. This led directly to theappointment of the Philipps Commission and then to the enactment of the Policeand Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, whichallowed for police investigators to be prosecuted in the act of amiscarriage of justice, as improper police pressure suggested that an overhaulof the system was needed. The following year theCrown Prosecution Service was established.
Fisher’s report laid the groundworkfor all these reforms. The question ofwhether the CJS is effective in rectifying miscarriages of justice is shownthrough the recent enactment of the Turing Law. Named after Alan Turing, aWorld War Two, code-breaker who has only recently been pardoned in 2013,decades after being convicted for gross indecency, or for lack of a betterterm, for being gay. (BBC News, 2016) This new bill issaid to be split into two parts, the first part would include a formal pardonfor every man convicted under homosexuality laws, and the second would be aconviction “disregard” for men still living, whose records are problematic,such as the issue of being put on the sex offenders list for being homosexual. (BBC News, 2017a) Although this seems as though the CJS is finally rectifying themiscarriage of justice placed upon these men, homosexuality has been legal inthe United Kingdom (UK) since 1967, as well as same-sex marriage being legalsince 2014. Thus, it must be asked, why has taken the CJSystem fifty years toput this motion in place since being legal to be homosexual, and why weren’tmore process put in place in the mean time to protect those, like Turing, whomtook their own lives due to their wrongful convictions. In addition, there are currently no figures that exist that canaccurately and reliably quantify the incidence of disputed, factual innocence,or of other conceptions of miscarriages of justice. (D, Eady.
2009, p. 10) It would be equally as difficult to ascertain how manyindividuals are wrongly indicted as it would be to ascertain how many arewrongly convicted. Similarly, the length of time it takes to resolvemiscarriages of justice makes it difficult to form a judgement on whether theproblem is increasing or decreasing, as current figures on successful appealsreflect the correction of past mistakes, not those convictions occurring as wespeak. Resultantly, the Criminal Case ReviewCommission 1997 (CCRC) was set up as an independent body responsible forinvestigating alleged miscarriages of justice. Critics say that the commissionis under-funded, understaffed and not sufficiently independent, with a currentbacklog of 1,200 cases. (BBC News, 2017b) However, the CCRCshows that it remains as necessary a body now, as it did when it was firstinitiated. Even its harshest critics simply want to improve the CCRC and haveno interest in its abolition.
The existence of the CCRC on its own is notenough, it requires resources and powers to perform its job effectively. Thereis no question that the fundamental constitutional principle, which the CJSrests and the CCRC exists to uphold, is that the guilty are convicted and theinnocent go free by investigating miscarriages of justice. (Criminal Case ReviewCommission, 2017) However, victims, Victor Nealon, who spent seventeen yearsin prison for attempted rape, and Sam Hallam, aged 17, who was convicted ofmurder after a trainee chef was stabbed during a fight in London, have cometogether to take the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to court over changesto the law stopping them from receiving compensation for the twenty-four yearsthey wrongly spent behind bars. (Independent, 2015). By law, the requirementsnecessary under the UK’s international obligations to the InternationalCovenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, article 14 (6), states that; “When a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminaloffence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has beenpardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusivelythat there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has sufferedpunishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according tolaw, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the known fact in time iswholly or partly attributed to him.
” However, Nealon and Hallam are not the only ones fighting forcompensation on their own miscarriages of justice. It took 23 years for theHillsborough families to achieve some form of truth and justice. In February 2015, a Global Law Summit washeld for those who had been wrongly convicted but denied any redress under theruling introduced in 2014 which virtually states that it is not enough to justbe innocent and in most cases the real culprit of the crime must be foundbefore the individual can be compensated. The battle for victims ofmiscarriages of justice to receive compensation for their time served is anongoing and ever long, proving yet again that the attempts of rectification bythe system are ineffective. (The Guardian, 2015) Onthe other hand, the Innocence Projects have been put in place. These are aconjunction between university students, solicitors and barristers whoinvestigate cases of alleged wrongful convictions, on a pro bono basis.
(TheInnocence Project, 2017) They seek to uncover cases that are evident of thefailings within the criminal justice system. Along with the Innocence Network(INUK) (2004), they give help and hope to potentially innocent victims ofwrongful conviction or imprisonment who have exhausted the appeals system andlegal aid services. According to the INUK, the CCRC, is not doing a good enoughjob of referring cases of alleged or suspected miscarriage of justice back tothe appeal courts. Some innocent victims of wrongful conviction were not referredto the appeal court simply because they did not meet the required criteria.This is an example of a major flaw in the rectification of miscarriage ofjustice.
Within a legal systemthere will always be miscarriages of justice, before the aspect of rectifyingmiscarriages justice can be tackled, the CJS must first begin to look at theroot cause of this, although it may never be fully eradicated, this could help buta few. Asfound, the CJS falters in its urgency to help those who fall victim to thesystem itself rather than victim to crime. It took twenty- three painful yearsfor the Hillsborough families to achieve some measure of justice, for the mostpart the victims of miscarriages of justice must fight their battles alone.
Politicians talk sympathetically about introducing a victims’ law, but where isthe compassion shown to those who are victims of wrongful convictions? Inevaluation, the CJS have put in the basic groundwork to help miscarriage ofjustice victims, however, they fail to commit themselves fully. As shown,practices such as the CCRC are put in place but are not adequately aided by thegovernment, and laws passed such as the Turing Law pose an enormous impact onthe rectification of these miscarriages, but the imposition of such law is allbut too late. Therefore in conclusion, yes the criminal justice system is ableto rectify miscarriages of justice within society, but the question of its effectivenessis another matter within itself.