Today the Supreme Court of the UK is due to give its ruling in the landmark case of MacCartney, McDermott and Adams discussed on this blog previously. At the centre of this case is the meaning of the term miscarriage of justice and whether it is limited to cases where a person can prove their innocence. In Ireland the courts have adopted a wide definition of the term, stating that where there has been a grave defect in the administration of the justice (which could be interpreted as very serious wrongdoing on the part of the State), this could amount to a miscarriage of justice. The UK Court of Appeal has however, been reticent to take a similar line.
In each of these cases the appellant is not in a position to prove their innocence (as is exceptionally difficult to do for any appellant) but there are serious concerns as to how the investigation and trials were conducted. Continue reading “Miscarriages of Justice in the UK – Supreme Court Decision *Updated*”
Human Rights in Ireland is delighted to welcome this guest post from Dr. Stephen Donoghue. Stephen is a final year law student at Griffith College Dublin and a case worker on the Irish Innocence Project. Stephen completed his PhD at the University of Leicester in Molecular Pathology in 2000 and has worked for a number of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Stephen was also a postdoctoral research fellow at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School.
The Irish Innocence Project at Griffith College is part of a global Innocence Network that resolves to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice. The use of DNA to exonerate convicted individuals has been crucial in the investigation of these injustices, especially in the United States. In general the Irish Innocence Project welcomes many of the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2010 currently passing through the Oireachtas. Continue reading “Guest Post: Irish Innocence Project and DNA Databases”
When it comes to human rights instruments, miscarriages of justice occupy somewhat of a nebulous position. A miscarriage of justice occurring is not of itself a breach of a persons human rights. It may involve a breach of one of many rights (most commonly the right to a fair trial) but it can happen that a court finds someone has been the subject of miscarriage of justice and no rights have been breached. Take for example the 2009 Irish case of Feichín Hannon. No claim was ever made that the police did anything wrong or that the trial was improperly conducted. A witness lied and the jury believed her. And a man was convicted of sexual assault. Years later she recanted and a miscarriage of justice was declared. No rights breached. Continue reading “Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Miscarriages of Justice in the UK”
We are very pleased to feature this guest contribution from Dr Vicky Conway of QUB School of Law on compensation for miscarriages of justice. You can find out more about Vicky on the ‘Guest Contributors’ page.
The Irish Times reports today that the Minister for Justice has failed to make a determination on compensation to be paid to Nora Wall for the miscarriage of justice which occurred in her case. This brings into serious question the operation of the compensation section of the Criminal Justice Act 1993. This legislation provides individuals with recourse to the Court of Criminal Appeal where new or newly discovered facts show that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in their case. Under s.9, where the Court declares that there is has been a miscarriage of justice the individual is entitled to compensation, and they can choose either to apply to the Minister who determines the amount or to institute High Court proceedings. This brings Ireland in line with requirements under Article 3 of Protocol 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights and with similar statements in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Sister Nora Wall was convicted in 2005 of rape (the first female in the state to be found guilty of this offence) and sentenced to life imprisonment. Six weeks after her conviction, and four days after sentencing, her conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal and the DPP agreed to retrial when it became apparent that there had been non-disclosure of evidence in relation to one witness. Within four months the DPP announced that he would not be pursuing the retrial and supported her application to the Court of Appeal for a declaration of miscarriage of justice, which was granted later that year ( IE CCA 140). One of the complainants had a history of making false complaints of assault and a key witness had been declared unreliable prior to the trial and should never have appeared in court. Continue reading “Guest Contribution: Conway on Compensation for Miscarriages of Justice”