From the introduction of Wrongly Accused: Who is responsible for investigating miscarriages of justice?
‘Our system of criminal justice is not perfect. Despite all its safeguards and the strivings of the vast majority of those of us who are involved in its conduct, a risk of miscarriages remains. Even in the current state of the public finances, we must continue to recognise and to confront that risk. Miscarriages that have taken place, perhaps many years ago, must be identified and put right; the risk of miscarriages in the future must be yet further minimised.
Since it began its work in 1997 the Criminal Cases Review Commission has been responsible for examining claims that a miscarriage has occurred, and for referring to the Court of Appeal cases in which it believes that there is a real possibility that the resultant appeal will be allowed. Aspects of its work have been the subject of criticism. Some have suggested that it should be replaced. Yet over the years since 1997 the involvement of both the media and voluntary organisations in the investigation, exposure and future minimisation of miscarriages has diminished.
Nevertheless, as the deputy chair of the Commission [Alastair McGregor] acknowledges, journalists, pressure groups, academics and others still have vital roles to play in uncovering miscarriages of justice, in ensuring that miscarriages remain matters of real public concern and in keeping up to the mark those who are charged with investigating and/or remedying them.
Against that overall background, we can all agree that further improvements are possible but what should they be? This is thus a question that is ripe for consideration in the Justice Gap series. The result is an excellent and thought-provoking collection of essays by distinguished authors from across the spectrum of involvement and interest… .
In reading the essays I was particularly struck by the different referral test applied by the Commission in Scotland, and by the way in which the Canadian criminal justice system learns lessons for the future when a miscarriage has taken place. Even for the experienced lawyer, the content provides a salutary reminder that anything less than the highest standard of professionalism increases the risk of miscarriages… .
In my view the essays make a valuable contribution to what is a necessary, vital and current debate. I commend them to you.’
Mr Justice Sweeney , March 2011
To download full book click here