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News Roundup Week Ending 1 August 2014

Charlotte Rowles

By Charlotte Rowles on 31/07/14

News Roundup Week Ending 1 August 2014
30 July 2014

Aodhan O'Faolain writes about a miscarriage of justice that has taken decades to come to light in the Irish Independent. 

Four decades on, neighbour is finally cleared of killing Una (19). 
A man falsely convicted of killing his 19-year-old neighbour 42 years ago said he has "gone through a very difficult life" after a court finally declared his conviction a miscarriage of justice.

Martin Conmey (63) said the conviction "affected my health, and it has been difficult to get through most days.

"I have had to watch my two friends who were accused with me suffer as well for something they were innocent of, one of whom lost his life," he said.

However, he said he was "delighted" at the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) yesterday which finally cleared his name.
In 2010 Mr Conmey was acquitted of the manslaughter of Una Lynskey, 38 years after being jailed for three years for the offence. Yesterday, the court said "it seems obvious in the present case there has been a grave defect in the administration of justice brought about by the members of the State".

Mr Conmey, from Ratoath, Co Meath, embraced friends and family following the ruling. Outside court, he said he was delighted that his name had been cleared.

Mr Conmey's lawyers will now lodge an application for compensation as a result of the CCA's miscarriage of justice finding.
The case arose out of the death of civil servant Una Lynskey who, after getting off a bus from Dublin, disappeared less than half a mile from her home on Porterstown Lane in Ratoath, Co Meath, on October 12, 1971.
Her body was discovered two months later in the Dublin mountains in an advanced state of decomposition. The cause of her death has never been determined.

Mr Conmey and his friend Dick Donnelly were convicted of her manslaughter in July 1972.

A third man, Martin Kerrigan, who was also suspected of having been involved in Ms Lynskey's death, was abducted and killed by Una Lynskey's brothers, Sean and James Lynskey, and her cousin, John Gaughan, nine days after her body was discovered.

Mr Donnelly won his appeal against his conviction in 1973 but Mr Conmey's conviction was upheld and he served three years in jail.

In November 2010, the CCA overturned this conviction after finding that early statements taken from witnesses Martin Madden and Sean Reilly – which tended to favour Mr Conmey – were not disclosed to the defence and were "radically inconsistent" with later statements of the same witnesses and with evidence given at the trial.

The CCA heard the later statements placed Mr Conmey and Mr Donnelly in Mr Donnelly's car on Porterstown lane during the crucial 15-minute period in which Ms Lynskey disappeared.

Arising out of the 2010 decision, Mr Conmey applied to the CCA, based on newly discovered facts, to certify his conviction as being a miscarriage of justice. His counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, argued that the State had never outlined what part in the killing Mr Conmey was meant to have played and there was no single factual or scientific allegation against him.

In its ruling, the CCA said Mr Conmey was convicted on the basis he was involved in a joint enterprise with others. The establishment of a joint enterprise was essential to any case against Mr Conmey.

The CCA said there was no evidence that established a joint enterprise that Mr Conmey was involved in. On this basis, there had been a miscarriage of justice.

One of the witness statements said that no car passed Porterstown Lane in the relevant time period. There could be no doubting the importance of the evidence that put Mr Conmey in Mr Donnelly's car at the relevant time period, the CCA found.

The only surviving witness, Sean Reilly, now gives an account of having been "severely and unlawfully pressurised by gardai to make the altered statements". His account also includes allegations of physical assault. No other explanation for the changed statements was advanced by the State, the CCA added.

29 July 2014

Owen Boycott, The Guardian’s legal affairs correspondent reports on the impact of legal aid cuts on family courts. 

Legal aid cuts have left family courts 'at breaking point'.

People facing child custody and divorce cases without proper advice as private arbitrations rise, says lawyer's body Resolution. 

The family courts system is at breaking point due to delays caused by unrepresented litigants and overstretched judges, according to the body that represents lawyers and professionals in divorce hearings.

Jo Edwards, a solicitor and the newly appointed chair of Resolution, fears that a two-tier system of justice is emerging where private clients opt out of overcrowded, slow-moving public courts in favour of private arbitration hearings.

Cuts to legal aid have deprived separating couples of funding for representation and legal advice, leaving them to navigate their own way through the courts as they attempt to reach settlements on complex, emotional issues of child custody and division of family assets.

The result is that as many as two-thirds of cases working their way through the family courts now involve at least one side which has no lawyer to provide help, Edwards estimates. Such cases take more time because judges have to help litigants in person develop their claims.

The note of alarm Edwards is sounding may be more shrill than those of other lawyers but it is, she insists, a response to the experience of solicitors who work in family courts every day. "People are just giving up and not seeing their children because they don't know how to go about it," she said.

"We accept you can't go back to [funding family cases all the way through] but if you have a system at breaking point that will be more costly. The family courts system is very, very, very stretched. We recently met the Association of District Judges [who deal with family cases in county courts] and they were virtually holding their heads in their hands and saying it's very diffficult.

"People who represent themselves are not negotiating. They need a lot of time and help. The judges are having to draft orders which is normally done by the parties. I have heard of cases being listed eight months in advance. "
Resolution believes that providing legal aid for a single, initial meeting with a lawyer would provide separating couples with clear "signposts" about their legal options and encourage more people to use mediation as an alternative to courtroom confrontations.

The organisation is already running a pilot project along those lines for the Department of Work and Pensions in Crewe, Oxford and Newcastle, working with people who would previously have been eligible for legal aid. The number of couples attending mediation sessions plummeted last year following the removal of legal aid; divorcing couples stopped going to solicitors who would have directed them on to trained mediators.

Since April, it has been mandatory for litigants to attend a Miam (mediation, information and assessment meeting) before pursuing a court case. There are no published figures so far to demonstrate whether that has resulted in a revival in the number of mediation hearings.

Edwards, a family expert with the law firm Penningtons Manches, believes that successive governments have dodged the political responsibility of introducing no-fault divorces because they do not want to be blamed for making divorce easier.

There were 118,000 divorces in England and Wales in 2012, a small increase on the previous year's figure. The numbers peaked at more than 165,000 a year in the 1990s. The problem for those separating is compounded by the media's obsession with the divorces of multimillionaires, Edwards said.

"The only cases reported are the huge money ones which are not applicable to the man in the street. So you have lots of people representing themselves who are deriving no real guidance [about the state of the law]." People representing themselves tend also to bring along more supporters, she added, increasing the number of "raised voices" in family courts and the level of tension.

Responding to the concerns, the justice minister, Simon Hughes, said: "There have always been a significant number of people representing themselves in court — they did in around half of all private law cases in 2012 - and we provide information and guidance to help them. Judges have expertise in supporting them, for example by explaining procedures and what is expected.

"We are committed to making sure that more people make use of mediation rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court. Millions of pounds of legal aid remains available for family mediation and for legal advice to support family mediation.

"We are closely monitoring the impact of the legal aid changes and will continue to do so. Court performance is being maintained with the average time taken to complete cases remaining steady since April 2013."

30th July 2014

In a regular feature called SIO Corner, The Police Oracle reports on ‘the investigate mindset’. 

SIO Corner: The investigative mindset.

In our latest SIO corner series, we look at an SIO's situational awareness, the investigative mindset and the national decision model.

In this series, we preview sections of Blackstone's third edition of the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook. This book provides invaluable insight about the essential skills and responsibilities that a senior investigating officer needs to manage serious crime investigations, from the initial response through to crime scene examination and investigative strategies. PoliceOracle.com readers can enjoy a 20 per cent discount on the book with our special offer code at the end of the article.

This week, we focus on situational awareness and decision-making.

Situational awareness

Situational awareness typically refers to being aware of what is going on all around you. It is a term often referred to in police circles (and other professions such as the military and aviation industry, eg pilots and air traffic controllers). The concept is linked to perceptions of time and environmental information (temporal and spatial elements) that are critical and influential in complex and dynamic circumstances.

Situational awareness (SA) involves being aware of what is happening in and around the vicinity of an incident in order to understand what information, location, events and actions are helpful to decision making. Having a good sense of situational awareness provides an innate feel for situations, people and events and helps prevent errors in decision making. This is particularly important when there is a high level of information flow and decisions rely upon the recognition of SA factors.

There are a number of definitions available for SA, including the following:

• ‘The perception of elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.’

• ‘Knowing what is going on so you can work out what to do.’

• ‘Accessibility of a comprehensive and coherent situation representation which is continuously being updated in accordance with the results of recurrent situation assessments.’

• ‘Keeping track of what is going on around you in a complex, dynamic environment.’

SA indicates how decision making and problem solving are more than one dimensional and must take into account what is happening in dynamic environments; which is of great value to serious crime investigation.

Key decisions often have to take into account information and ‘situational’ factors within complex circumstances that might have to be quickly assimilated, interpreted and incorporated into effective decisions. Being dynamically aware of events that are occurring, surroundings and available information is a preferred state to adopt when making key decisions.

The investigative mindset

Good decision making relies upon what is termed an ‘investigative, mindset’. This effectively means keeping an open mind and remaining receptive to alternative suggestions, looking for other explanations and not becoming too focused on one or two theories or hypotheses.
This is the appliance of an investigative mindset. It is aimed at allowing a more logical and methodical approach to good decision making and has become a very important doctrine in UK crime investigation.

National Decision Model

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has approved the adoption of a single National Decision Model (NDM) for the Police Service. The ACPO Ethics Portfolio and the National Risk Coordination Group developed this tool to provide a simple, logical and evidence-based approach to making policing decisions.
Understanding the NDM will help SIOs develop an appreciation of the professional judgement expected when making effective decisions. The NDM is intended to be suitable for all decisions and can be applied to spontaneous incidents or planned operations, by an individual or teams of people, and to both operational and non-operational situations.

About the authors

Former Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a career detective and senior investigating officer with Greater Manchester Police until he retired in 2009. He is currently a PIP Level 3 and 4 Regional SIO Advisor with the National Crime Agency.

Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years' service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit.
Blackstone's Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook is designed specifically to meet the quick-reference needs of any officer conducting a serious investigation. The only portable step-by-step guide to the processes and actions involved in the role of a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), it explains all the relevant procedures and instructions integral to the position in a clear and accessible style