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News Round-Up Week Ending 7.11.14

(Posted on 07/11/14)


CCRC Ineffective.

Susan May died of cancer last November, weeks before a third appeal against her conviction for the murder of an elderly aunt. Ms May spent twelve years in prison.

The Parliamentary Justice Select Committee has now launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

“We’ve been campaigning for Susan for two decades, all because of what we see as basic faults in the justice system,” said Geoff Goodwin, a close childhood friend and founder, with his sister Dorothy, of the ‘Friends of Susan May’ campaign group. “When she was in prison, Susan used to ring up the CCRC every fortnight to check on the progress of her case. But they were totally incommunicative. Now it’s really important for us and her family that we get a result.”

“I’m very glad that this is being done because the CCRC has an extremely important role in looking at potential miscarriages of justice,” Michael Meacher, Ms May’s MP, told the Manchester Evening News. “I firmly believe there was a miscarriage of justice in the case of Susan May, and I think there is another explanation. I sincerely hope this enquiry does lead to a clearing of Susan’s name.”

20 Years Too Long for 15-Year-Old Murderer

The chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) has called Will Cornick’s 20-year tariff for murdering his teacher Ann Maguire “too long”.

“We are out of line with the whole of western Europe,” said Penelope Gibbs. “There are no other countries within western Europe which would give children a life sentence - and this boy is seen as a child under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is in the youth justice system.

“How many years do we need for punishment? We have given him a sentence which is more than his own lifetime.”

Campaigners against knife crime were quick to react.

“I think with cases like these there’ll always be the critics who argue sentences should be shorter for younger offenders. He wasn’t too young to plan and carry out a ruthless murder,” responded Theresa Cave, whose son Chris was killed 11 years ago. “Until people are put in the position where it’s members of their own family who are attacked, they don’t have a right to judge.”

Parents at the school in Leeds also criticised Ms Gibbs.

“It’s easy to make comments when you have never been to the school or met Mrs Maguire,” said a mother at Corpus Christi Catholic College.

Drinking while Pregnant is Manslaughter

In a test case being heard at the Court of Appeal, lawyers for a local authority in the north-west of England are claiming compensation for a seven-year-old girl from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), after her mother’s drinking damaged her as a foetus. The local authority won the initial claim hearing but lost in the upper administrative tribunal on the grounds that an unborn child is not a person in law.

“The child was born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder,” said John Foy QC. “We say it’s on all fours with manslaughter.”

Foetal alcohol syndrome involves brain damage and distorted facial features. Up to eighty similar cases await the judgment.

“It is highly unlikely to lead to prosecutions and the birth mother plays no active part in the claim process, “said Neil Sugarman of GLP Solicitors.“Compensation would open up new avenues to treatments and support not readily available on the NHS, and to provide at least some improvement to the quality of life of a group of very badly damaged children and young people.”

No Alternative to EAW

In a letter to The Telegraph, forty judges and lawyers have warned that “there is no credible alternative” to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Up to a hundred Conservative MPs are expected to vote against its re-adoption.

“Britain can only lead reform of Europe's criminal justice co-operation by being part of the system,” the letter argues. “Without the EAW other EU members may be unable speedily to extradite suspects like Hussain Osman [convicted of trying to repeat the July 7 terror attacks] or Jeremy Forrest [convicted of abducting a schoolgirl] to Britain - both in jail after use of the EAW.”

A YouGov poll of the British public found 56 per cent in favour of the EAW, 18 per cent against.

Hundred-Year-Old Miscarriage of Justice

A Cumbrian journalist believes he has uncovered evidence to exonerate two signalmen blamed for the Gretna train crash of 1915, Britain’s worst rail disaster, in which 220 people died.

George Meakin and James Tinsley were convicted of culpable manslaughter by a Scottish court after failing to use a lever collar. But the railmen may well have been discouraged from using the new safety device, which might have averted the deaths, mostly of troops transported in obsolete gas-lit wooden carriages.

“The managers had never used locking collars on the signal levers themselves, and didn’t like them,” former BBC journalist Adrian Quine told the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald. “It was a toxic mix. It appears from all the evidence that the company’s safety procedures were appalling, and the cover-up afterwards was pretty bad. Had the evidence come out at their trial then they probably wouldn’t have been convicted.”

The crash is one of three aspects of the First World War to feature in BBC1’s Inside Out, to be broadcast on Monday 10th November.