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News Round-Up Week Ending 21.3.14

Charlotte Rowles

By Charlotte Rowles on 24/03/14

News Round-Up Week Ending 21.3.14
Since 16th December 2013, Inside Justice has been trying to get an answer from Hampshire Constabulary on what exhibits remain in Roger Kearney’s case. Today we have sent our 6th letter to the force asking for clarification.

Shining a light on the law ( 17 February 2014)

Ian Burrell, Media Editor  in The Indepdendent newspaper writes about a new initiative aimed at “launching a national conversation about criminal justice”. With an annual operating budget of around $4 million, the funds will come from foundations and individuals. 

The project was the brainchild of Neil Barsky, reporter turned hedge fund manager who recruited Bill Keller, editor of The New York Times. Together they will launch The Marshall Project with his team of up to 30 journalists to “investigate, report and comment” on the cases they see. The projects remit is broad but juvenile justice, drug sentencing, privatisation of prisons, solitary confinement, and mental illness are just some of the areas under the spotlight. 

In his opening address, the Pulitzer prize winner former editor says “This is a subject that defines us. If we are successful, we can hold the system more accountable for delivering on its promise of humane and effective justice”. 

With prisoner numbers in English jails rivalling those in the US, perhaps this should be inspiration to our own press. 

Coffee –cup DNA used to convict sex attacker (4 March 2014)

Jonathan Brown in The i newspaper reports that a violent sex attacker was brought to justice after more than a decade.  Detectives used ground-breaking anti terrorism powers to covertly re-cover DNA from a coffee cup. 

The forensics evidence gained linked Keith Henderson to “a horrific assault on two teenagers in 2001”. Scene of crime investigators recovered DNA from a single sperm head. 

Detective Constable Inspector Memory and his colleagues received the Excellence in Investigation Award from The Investigator magazine for Best Cold Case hinted the success could see the technique rolled out more widely.  

The officer said “We only use the covert DNA for intelligence. He never knew we were on to him and he was free for 10 years”. 

Death Row inmate released after 30 years wrongful conviction

Ed Pilkington in the Guardian (12 March 2014) writes about the case of Glenn Ford. Ford was released from Angola prison having served 30 years for a murder he didn’t commit. 

The case had classic hallmarks of a miscarriage of justice; poor legal representation, questionable forensics. 

When asked how he felt to be free. He said.. “It feels good. I can’t go back…. My son was a baby when I left, how he’s a grown man… “

Death Penalty Clinic; crime on screen

March is the start of a major season of films on BBC Three looking at Crime and Punishment. Each episode focuses on a key aspect of the system – execution, trial and appeal.

Under the banner of ‘Life and Death Row’ The final episode follows the work of young law students at the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of Houston Law Centre – the last line of defence - as they take on cases that have been discounted by state and federal appeals, known as ‘crisis cases’. 

Legal aid: Government claims barristers earn £84,000 ‘misleading’

On 17 March, BBC News.co.uk reported an unlikely development in the ongoing debate about legal aid cuts has thrown doubt on the Government calculations that the UK has one of the highest legal aid bill in the world.

The Criminal Bar Association estimates that figure of average annual salary of barristers in this field £37,000, which takes account of costs and tax.  Not quite the £84,000 the Government had claimed when making its case for cuts of up to £220, 000. The UK Statistics Authority challenged the £84,000 figure in correspondence to the Ministry of Justice. 

Andrew Dilnot, who heads the UK body responsible for monitoring the integrity of official statistics said “Using a different way of calculating the figures would have produced a lower average”. 

A spokeswoman said the government had been as transparent as possible.