September 26 2023

Miscarriages of Justice? We need to talk

Miscarriages of Justice? We need to talk

Liam Allan. Pic: Anders Palm Olesen

‘Ministers host summit on disclosure failures.’ Seeing the title of The Times article last weekinitially filled us with great excitement. Innovation of Justice’s work for the last year finally looked to have taken a huge step. The very idea we had been promoting and campaigning for was seemingly blossoming. However, this joy was short-lived. Having read the plan within the article, yet again, miscarriage of justice advocates have had the door slammed shut on them, with no invitation or knowledge that such a meeting was taking place.

What could have been progress in preventing miscarriages of justice, has instead become a demonstration of the lack of care towards the voices of those representing innocent people. Simply put, we are still being ignored.

I do not want any confusion: we think the idea is fantastic, given its what we have been attempting to build for the last year; it’s just missing one core ingredient that will allow the criminal justice system to move towards fairer justice for both real victims of crime and innocent defendants caught on the wrong side of the system: our voice.

The ‘roundtable’ that has been built does boast truly influential characters: Max Hill, the Director of Public Prosecutions; Nick Ephgrave, the assistant commissioner; Dame Vera Baird, the new victims’ commissioner; Lucy Frazer QC, the solicitor-general, to name but a few. All people we have contacted or tried to contact to build such a discussion ourselves across the last year.

Yet we are left with big questions: who in that meeting is the miscarriage of justice advocate? Who is the person in that meeting that will be the voice of the many miscarriage of justice victims that have been through extreme trauma?

The truth is, no one in that meeting can truly be the voice for innocent defendants.

A collaborative approach cannot take place if the collective individuals are ‘forgetting’ to invite such a key representative.

Ignoring miscarriage of justice advocates has led society down a path to having little to no faith in our system, led us into a national disclosure problem, and has led many innocents through a prison door, waiting for access to the very evidence that could save their life whilst they carry out their days behind prison bars for crimes they have not committed.

Many may think that’s a bold statement, to be so definitive. Yet such a view is supported by the CPS’s former DPP Alison Saunders, who ignored the calls of miscarriage of justice advocates, eventually accepting the system as a whole had been ‘getting it wrong’ far too frequently. Ultimately, she revealed there are probably people in prison that simply do not belong there.

They have a voice. One that is channelled through many of the organisations nationwide that represent them. Yet these happen to be the same people not invited to such a critical discussion. This doesn’t feel like a step forward, but notably a step sideways.

All we ask – all we have ever asked – is for a seat at the table. Such a simple request has become such a difficult campaign, with doors closing all around us, not allowing us to have the unified miscarriage of justice voice to be heard.

For those reading this that have experienced or witnessed miscarriages of justice, or those that have an investment in such a devastating topic, we as a team urge you to focus on this: not all hope is lost. We will fight to have our voice heard. We will fight to prevent this happening to anymore innocent people. We will fight for the casualties that have already happened as a result of the failings of the criminal justice system. We will not give up.

We deserve justice. The thousands of innocent people affected by this deserve to have their voice heard. If not, miscarriages of justice will continue, and what little faith is currently left in the criminal justice system will be lost for good. To protect the public, we need to be at these meetings.