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Inside Justice Comments on Law Commission Review

(Posted on 06/08/22)

Inside Justice Comments on Law Commission Review

Inside Justice has welcomed news that the Law Commission of England and Wales will launch a wide-ranging review of the laws governing appeals for criminal cases.

After many years of campaigning and awareness raising, Inside Justice is particularly pleased to see that part of the review will include 'laws governing the retention and disclosure of evidence for a case, including after conviction, and retention and access to records of proceedings.'

As part of our work investigating miscarriages of justice, our casework team discovered that police forces were routinely losing, destroying and contaminating evidence they had a duty to store in case of an appeal or a cold case investigation. 

This concerning discovery led to Inside Justice calling for vital improvements to the justice system to ensure transparency and fairness for all. 

Louise Shorter, Founder of Inside Justice said:

"This announcement from the Law Commission has been a long time coming and is hugely welcomed.  We support all areas for review identified by the Commission but in particular we are thrilled to see that the policy and practices around retention and disclosure of evidence post-conviction will be reviewed as we have worked over the past 5 years to raise awareness on this issue.

"Our work on Roger Kearney's case exposed the wholesale destruction, loss and contamination of evidence by Hampshire Constabulary on that case even though they had a legal duty to safely store the material for an appeal. They faced no sanctions whatsoever for doing so even though they had destroyed our only chance and Roger's hope, to have crime scene exhibits tested which could have objectively proved his innocence. Our subsequent work identified that Roger's case was the tip of the iceberg and, sadly, it is not uncommon for police forces to lose evidence, sometimes even before trials have taken place and in some cases, even preventing people accused of sex offences and homicide to stand trial.  That must change. Confidence in the criminal justice system cannot be maintained if crime scene exhibits are not stored carefully. Innocent people will remain in jail, leaving dangerous offenders at large, if evidence is not stored properly.

Louise added: "Since the Nunn Judgment in the Supreme Court, police forces have refused to release material to anyone other than the CCRC. This is in direct conflict with historic practices, it is not what the Supreme Court intended in its judgment and it is not fair.  People who are wrongly convicted don't give up on their determination to regain their liberty and their good names so a refusal by police to release exhibits simply prolongs the agony for those involved and damages the reputation of the police.

"It is inevitable that some people will be wrongly convicted because the criminal justice system, like any other run by human beings, is not fallible. It is how our police forces, public bodies such as the Criminal Cases Review Commission which has statutory responsibility to investigate claims of innocence and the Court of Appeal Criminal Division respond that determine whether confidence in the criminal justice system by the public is maintained, for a failure to act fairly and responsibly does not make the problem go away, it simply compounds it."

You can read the full terms of reference for the Law Commission's Review here

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