by Michael Naughton, Reader in Sociology and Law, University of Bristol Law School and School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS)
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is the last hope for alleged innocent victims of wrongful convictions who fail in their attempts to overturn their convictions within the normal criminal appeals system. It was established as the main recommendation of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (RCCJ), which was announced on the day that the Birmingham Six overturned their wrongful convictions in the Royal Courts of Justice. It was the case of the Birmingham six and other now notorious miscarriage of justice cases including those of the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, Judith Ward, as well as a host of lesser known cases that were overturned around the period, that were able to cause a widespread lack of confidence in the workings of the entire criminal justice system in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The public awareness that the criminal justice system was convicting innocent victims and then failing to provide the necessary mechanisms for them to overturn their wrongful convictions was something that was deemed to be unacceptable and something that needed to be urgently addressed to restore public confidence. (more…)
Whatever her precise intentions, there is little doubt that the most senior prosecutor in England and Wales’s wilful refusal to acknowledge the reality of miscarriages of justice and that innocent people can be and are wrongly convicted and imprisoned only stoked the burgeoning crisis in the existing disclosure regime that governs alleged criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Variously described as ‘ill informed’, ‘complacent’ and ‘part of the current problem’, in this blog I critically evaluate the DPP’s statement in the context of her duties under the terms of the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the perennial problem of miscarriages of justice and wrongful imprisonment in England and Wales.
Moreover, in the context of a growing lack of confidence in the DPP and the disclosure regime in alleged criminal investigations and prosecutions, I will make the case that the DPP should be immediately replaced and for governmental intervention in the form of a royal commission to get to the heart of the apparent problems and devise solutions to fix a system that is clearly broken and in urgent need of repair. (more…)