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News Round-Up Week Ending 24.10.14

(Posted on 24/10/14)


To Die an Innocent Man

Martin Foran has won a second miscarriage of justice appeal over robberies in the 1970s and 80s, handled by the notorious West Midlands Police Serious Crime Squad.

The Court of Appeal overruled his 1978 conviction after a referral by the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC); his conviction for the 1984 robbery of a Birmingham pub was quashed last year.

Foran, who served six years of a 10-year sentence, has terminal cancer and wants to die an innocent man.

“It has gone down in history as a double miscarriage of justice,” he said. “It has been a long, hard battle to get to this point and I have waited many years.”

33 convictions involving the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad have been quashed, including those of the Birmingham Six.

“The officers involved in the case have since retired or left the force and a number of lessons have been learned since the original investigation was undertaken in 1985,” Sharon Rowe, Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, has previously responded. “The public should be reassured that West Midlands Police expects the highest standards of professionalism from its officers and staff and as such we have robust management and anti-corruption measures in place.”

Footballer on Fast Track 

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is to fast-track an application by footballer Ched Evans, formerly of Sheffield United.

“After an initial review of the case, we decided that we would need to conduct further detailed investigations to establish what merit there may or may not be in the submissions made to us,” a CCRC spokesperson told the Observer. “In line with our published policy on prioritisation, and in relation to the facts of the case and the issues raised in Mr Evans’s application… we now expect our substantive investigation to begin within the next few weeks.” The average waiting time for an initial review from the CCRC is seven months.

Evans was sentenced to five years in jail in 2012 for the rape of a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room. He was released last Friday and continues to maintain his innocence.

“I am very lucky my girlfriend Tasha has stood by me. She knows I am not capable of rape. She has helped me to cope,” Evans told the Sunday Mirror. “I want to play football again, but I am determined to prove my innocence.”

Tories’ Turn for Terrorists

One hundred Conservative MPs may vote against the UK keeping the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) next month, as part of the growing movement to recoup powers from Brussels. 

Fearing the biggest back bench rebellion of this parliament, senior MPs have warned that opting out of the EAW, which expedites extraditions between signatory countries, would seriously undermine efforts to bring terrorists to justice.

“Opting out would make it easier for terrorists, murderers and child sex offenders to escape justice,” said Immigration Minister Damian Green.

Bharti Patel of Ecpat UK, an organisation that campaigns against child trafficking and transnational child exploitation, said: “Some of these crimes are transnational crimes, and therefore require transnational tools. The European Arrest Warrant helps us to identify, collect and share the intelligence that police need in order to prosecute the criminals. Sharing intelligence in this way has already helped us to stop human trafficking.”

Don’t Put Your Son on the Bar

Sir John Royce, a recently retired Bristol judge, has described the government’s cuts to the legal system as "savage" and advised his own sons against joining the publicly-funded bar.

“I have real concerns about where we are going to be in a few years' time, it's bad enough now,” said Sir John, former leader of the Western Circuit and High Court judge. “Savings have to be made and there have been very substantial savings. But for the bar and solicitors now, it is very, very tough and I think the cuts have been far too savage. It saddens me that I had to advise my sons not to come to the publicly-funded bar for that reason.”

£220m will go from the annual criminal case legal aid budget in England and Wales. "Legal aid remains available where people most need legal help," a Ministry of Justice spokesman countered.

Paedophiles Escape Justice

The director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), Keith Bristow, has admitted that some people accessing indecent images of children will avoid the criminal justice system, with police and the NCA focusing on those offenders most likely to go on to commit sexual abuse.

“I don't think I can be more candid than say, if there are 50,000 people involved in this particularly horrible type of criminality, I don't believe that all 50,000 will end up in the criminal justice system being brought to justice. Our responsibility is to focus on the greatest risk and tackle those people.

“As abhorrent as even the lower risk part of this is, and it's still abhorrent and it's still horrible, particularly when seen alongside other things like acquisitive crime, we're going to have to start thinking differently about not just how we pursue these people but how we prevent people perpetrating this particular form of horribleness.”

Two Years for Trolls

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants new laws to increase prison sentences for internet trolls. The change is an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill being debated in the House of Lords. 

“These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life,” Mr Grayling told the Mail on Sunday. "No-one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence.”

Mr Grayling described the online abuse of Chloe Madeley, daughter of Richard and Judy, as “crude and degrading”, after she defended her mother’s comments on the rape conviction of Ched Evans.

Pistorius Out Next Summer

Oscar Pistorius has received a five year sentence for the manslaughter of Reeva Steenkamp. He will be eligible for house arrest after ten months.

“It doesn’t matter. He’s going to pay something,” June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother responded, accepting that justice had been served. 

“We are satisfied,” added the victim’s father, Barry.