The National Training Conference for students and other independent investigators starts tomorrow. These are people who are reviewing cases of people in prison who claim to be innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted.
What are Innocence Projects?
Undergraduate students working in pro bono innocence projects and miscarriage of justice review centres (IPs for short) in universities across the UK are the target conference participants. They give their own time to help people seeking justice, for whom all other sources of help have been exhausted: private funds and legal aid have run out, and no one else can research their cases and prepare applications for them.
IPs recruit intelligent, committed students and aim to give them the training they need to thoroughly review cases assigned to them. They need to learn how to organise the many files that arrive in their offices, to understand how cases have been investigated and prepared for trial, to find any evidence that supports the claims of their clients, and to present it in effective applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
What’s the conference for?
IP students need the knowledge and skills that enable them to come up their own ideas of how fresh evidence might be found. As anyone who has been paying attention to recent criminal cases, nearly all of this ‘fresh’ evidence is already there in material acquired by police investigators but never disclosed to defence lawyers. We have therefore assembled experts in following fields:
Forensic science and finding people
- Professor Allan Jamieson, Director of the Forensic Institute in Scotland. Allan is often called to give expert evidence about DNA in the UK and the USA. His evidence was of key importance in the Omagh bombing trial.
- Andy Townsend of Footprint Investigations, leading experts on cell site analysis of phone call data which pinpoints where users are located.
- Neil Smith, perhaps the UK’s foremost expert on using the internet to trace people and find information about them.
Issues in criminal justice which are major causes of wrongful conviction.
Joint enterprise prosecutions, in which innocent people are convicted just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Speaking and leading conference sessions will be:
- Felicity Gerry QC, who contributed to rectifying the highly controversial law on joint criminal enterprise in the UK Supreme Court case of Jogee. She continues to work on joint enterprise cases and campaign for changes in the law on accessory liability. Felicity will speak via a video link from Australia,
- Dwaine George who was himself wrongly convicted in a joint enterprise murder case. His conviction was overturned with the help of Cardiff Innocence Project. He now studies law at Manchester Metropolitan University, and
- Janet Cunliffe of Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGBA) and mother of Jordan, wrongly convicted of murder.
The chaotic state of the disclosure system, responsible for many wrongful convictions because evidence gathered by the police which would help suspects is not passed on to them, will be explored through recent high profile cases, including those of:
- Liam Allan, who nearly went to prison for rape and was saved by the independent prosecutor and his defence barrister Julia Smart who will explain why full disclosure is so important, and
- Danny Kay, whose rape conviction was recently overturned thanks to the work of barrister Philip Rule who discovered important undisclosed material
- Dr Hannah Quirk, senior lecturer at Manchester School of Law, who has published articles explaining why the disclosure system is failing so badly.
Poor preparation of cases by defence lawyers. Everyone in prison who is claiming to be innocent criticises their trial lawyers. Dr Andrew Green, Director of the Sheffield MJRC at the University and founder of INNOCENT how to investigate and make use of these claims.
Protected and vulnerable witnesses and allegations of sexual assault. Brigid Baillie, barrister at Garden Court North, explains ‘special measures’ hearings and the problems with cross examining vulnerable witnesses.
Understanding and progressing cases
- Mark George QC, head of Garden Court North Chambers, who represented families at the Hillsborough inquests, will help students (as he has for many years) to understand cases make progress with them.
- Mark Newby, solicitor advocate, possibly the UK’s foremost criminal appeal lawyer and a long term active supporter of IPs, will talk about his recent successes and the technicalities of putting together an appeal case.
- David James Smith, a CCRC Commissioner, will lead a team giving a presentation and workshop on how the CCRC reviews cases and how to make an effective application. This double session is at the heart of the conference, as almost every case under review will result in an application to the CCRC.
The way forward
Finally students, experts, leading lawyers and MPs come together to discuss how to take forward the campaign to eradicate the scourge of miscarriage of justice. The Conference has been organised by Professor Claire McGourlay of the University of Manchester and Dr Andrew Green of the University of Sheffield.
For further information on National Training Conference on Investigating Miscarriages of Justice 2018 – The School of Law at the University of Manchester, sponsored by Clyde & Co. and LexisNexis, click here.