Following publication of my letters in Mailbag in April and June expressing my disappointment in criminal defence lawyers, I had resigned myself to accepting there would be no response from that direction. Imagine my surprise to discover, five months later, that my letters had at last been noticed and replied to by Campbell Malone.
Mr Malone, I do indeed know that legal aid is, as you describe it, at the lowest end of the range. My observations about solicitors was aimed at those firms who accept many more cases than they can properly cope with. I recognise this is to increase their income, but it is grossly unfair on their clients. I had personal experience of this when my husband was arrested. Long before a start had been made on his defence case, the duty solicitor allocated to my husband refused to agree to his request to transfer to another firm. They took the matter to the crown court, and won. The judge gave my husband the option of continuing to use the duty solicitor or paying privately for another one which would be, in the judge’s own words, “hideously expensive”. So much for the Human Right to have legal assistance of his own choosing! If solicitors are fighting to keep dissatisfied clients there must be a profit in it, so it is hardly surprising we feel we are just a nice little earner.
In my earlier letters, I acknowledged that the legal profession and various organisations recognise that there are many miscarriages of justice, and I asked what they are doing to prevent it affecting others. You mentioned the Criminal Appeal Lawyers Association (CALA) of which you are chair. I was already aware of the website and check it periodically but, at the time of writing, there is still very little information on there. The pages dedicated to solicitors and barristers dealing with appeal work remain empty, which is a shame because that is the information I was looking for.
I am reassured to hear that CALA are concerned about the Court of Appeal, the CCRC and the quality of legal representation, because so are thousands of prisoners and their families. I urge you to publicise on CALA’s website and elsewhere your concerns, your challenges, and your triumphs. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, Mr Malone. The public should be made aware of the failings in a judicial system which insists it is infallible, before they have to find out the hard way that what they read in the papers isn’t the truth. Most important of all, prisoners and their families need to be encouraged by what you and CALA are doing; we need faith in our legal representatives, and hope for the future.
It is ironic that in the same issue of Inside Time as Mr Malone’s letter, barrister Stanley Best is asking for prisoners to support his campaign to protect legal aid funding. If, instead of milking the system, his profession had campaigned against the laws which removed the safeguards for the innocent and made a rise in wrongful convictions inevitable, then the services he describes would not now be in jeopardy.
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 is responsible for an ever increasing number of wrongful convictions. Men accused of historic sexual crimes now have to prove their innocence, and in almost every case this is an impossibility. How can you combat uncorroborated stories said to have taken place 20, 30 or even 40 years previously? If defence lawyers had the courage to refuse cases which are impossible to defend properly, then there would have to be changes.
Because criminal defence professionals have failed to campaign publicly against unjust laws, it seems to have become acceptable that innocent people spend many years in prison. This complacency must be challenged, because even one innocent person in prison is an atrocity. Injustice is then exacerbated by an appeal process which will only accept fresh evidence or discovery of a procedural error in the trial, and which frowns upon claims of Abuse of Process in historic cases, this having previously been the final safeguard against being found guilty despite the absence of proof.
Tell me, Mr Malone: did criminal defence lawyers and barristers protest loudly and publicly to the government when they could see the law being changed for the worse? Are you doing so now? I, and many prisoners (my husband included), write to Ken Clarke every week, urging him to act. Will you and Mr Best publicly add your voices to ours, and so bring an end to the wicked incarceration of the innocent?
As Edmund Burke famously said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Jenny Richards, Wife of a Prisoner Maintaining Innocence, Leicestershire.
Comments about this article
5/10/2010 Rebecca McConnellI am new to this. But reading this article brings back the awful reality of the situation I and my Partner are in. He is serving time for an historical event. It is impossible to prove innocence, yet is it so easy them to find you guilty on just what people say happened. No actual evidence. How is it possible for anyone to have a fair trial in this situation? How is it possible to prove you are innocent? Please tell me how I can write to Ken Clarke.
7/10/2010 kim hugmanReading your article is exactly what has happened to my husband...happened many years ago and impossible to prove innocence. Everything has been one hard struggle to clear his name and still no light at the end of the tunnel. Where is the justice for the wrongly convicted???
8/10/2010 dianaMy family and I are also faced with similar problems, my brother was convicted 2 years ago for a crime that did not happen, the investigating officer was very judgemental and only took statements from character witnesses to help the prosecution but refused to take statements from witnesses who were actually living at the same property when the alleged crimes were supposed to have happened, the cps refused to help us, I have written to Ken Clarkes office twice and not once got a reply or acknowledgement they were in receipt of my letters, the professional police standards don`t won`t to know, we are at are wits end and don`t know where to turn to next.
13/10/2010 YellowomanThe reason why we are all here reading is these comments on this website is because we all have similar experiences and stories to tell and speak of. Mine is of my son - a 1st time offender Incarcerated for a crime he did not commit on 09/08/2010, so my story is still fresh, raw and very very real. The thing is what can do to help ourselves/ What can we do to help each other/ What can we do to prevent this happening to others?
14/10/2010 Gloria Fuller -I too am new to this: My husband, who I have been married to for 24 years and absolutely know inside and out, is in an innocent man; He had accusations made about him from a previous marriage.
15/10/2010 Jenny Richards -Thank you for your online comments.
17/10/2010 Becky Mcconnell -Having read all these comments, I feel there must be many more people out there who are in a similar situation that we all find ourselves in, who read this newspaper. Is there anyway that we could all get together and become one group. Is there nothing we can do together to get noticed? We could all gain support from one another also. Does anyone know any celebrities who would back our cause??
18/10/2010 Helga - - www.pacso.co.ukThere are support groups out there as already mentioned above.
21/10/2010 Jacqui -This is all very new and raw and real to me to right now, my husband, a good man, locked up because of unscrupulous malicious people. Our son is suffering because im having to fight for his rights to his dad whom he loves and is missing greatly. A solicitor who I have very little, bordering on no faith in right now. Support groups can only be good and I would of gone under weeks ago but for Jim, who has been fantastic. His e-mail offered me hope, his help and advice, understanding the minefield of the legal stuff and what you can do as far as appeals ect, hes been my angel and its through an article in this paper. Being in this situation has to be about your worst nightmare and literally can happen to anyone at anytime. No man is safe and wont be until changes to the laws are made. Its a scary time for people involved in this aswell as the accused but unless people are prepared to stand up, band together and shout about the injustices of it all, I cant see any changes ever being made. Solicitors and the like just keep on getting fatter wallets, while innocent men are serving prison sentences and if that isnt bad enough the unscrupulous people that have done this also get paid out vast amounts of money.
22/10/2010 Money TalksI wont bother you with my details. Suffice it to say the great british police force attempted to fit me up with a crime I had not committed. My solicitor and barrister were really quite useless but I used my brains and sought out my own defence evidence and the case against me was latter dropped.
27/10/2010 sueI agree with Diana same thing happened to my brother, He is now serving a sentence where no evidence was provided infact he was not even living at the address for the 3 of the years he was accused. How on earth can you get evidence to support something that happened 28 years ago. The accused had no medical,forensic,DNA evidence. No date no time of day the offence was supposed to have occured how on earth can you get any evidence to support his case. I used to belive in the British judical system not any more. More to the point I am livid that a member of my family was abused with video evidence to prove such such act had taken place but because in the end the perputrator admmited guilt was then given probation and a year on the sex offenders register.So even with evidence you are far more likley to get off, those that cannot prove where they were everyday 28years ago are commited to a life sentence, it is life because they have been accused with no real evidence. I would urge people to look at the stats for offences of abuse. It has increased for abuse for offences commited over 20 years ago, rather than recent abuse, that is probably due to Harriot Hardface introducing the no time limmit as well as compensation, well it certainly got the stats up,just not in the right order. British Justice stinks, well there aint no justice at all.
29/10/2010 Janis Pavey -There are too many innocent people in prison due to jury s who just see the person in the dock as guilty as soon as they see them,never mind, that, some of these
29/10/2010 Kaye -Seems every day men are being targeted by unscrupulous females, who have read all the numerous instances that are listed as sexual abuse, and this is on a Gov.uk website, all they have to do is download the details and pick out which they think will get their target incarcerated. One such woman listed 10 different acts which my Son was supposed to have committed.
30/10/2010 petra jacksonmy brother is innocent and been locked up for 18 months because his legal aid solicitors had a bigger job they needed to get to and even tho there was no evidence against him and that the girl who accused him said said he was covered in tattoos, my brother is very against tattoos, they offerd him 18 months or go to jury and get 10 years, they did not even try for him, they were not even bothered, they only thin k of the money not the people
14/11/2010 Olga EigerThat is the country for you. But you all ARE voting, you ARE free to go and express your opinion not in the safety of your own computers but in front of the Parliament and the Ministry of Justice!
23/11/2010 stanthe current law today needs to be changed sexual offences is the complete reversal of any other offence the accused must prove innocence. as from previous comments that is nearly impossible due to offences happening 20-30 yrs ago.
28/11/2010 Jean Tucker -I too, have come to this page because my husband of 12 years was accused by his daughters of abusing them 35 years ago.One of them said he raped her once when she was
28/11/2010 Jean Tucker -I am a solicitor who's husband has been falsely accused of rape.I do not specialise in Criminal Law so I too, am at a loss to find redress. I am working my way through it and have written to Panorama. Lets hope they investigate the injustices. I just want to say, don't be too hard on solicitors. They don't make the laws. They interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case. The people who are responsible for these unjust laws are your MP's. They are the legislators. They have the power to change the law. Lawyers do not. And to add insult to injury, they get paid tons more than solicitors do, to completely mess up our criminal justice system and deprive people of a truly fair trial.They have reduced the legal aid budget drastically so not many people get legal aid now. Fight for legal aid too by lobbying your MP.
28/11/2010 lesleyI have spent the last 10 weeks in total shock, my husband was found guilty of a crime involving a 15 year old girl, that we know he is totally innocent of. Hes unable to have contact with his own 15 year old daughter who loves him dearly and its so unfair, he has done nothing, i really believe that the jury had made up their mind at the beginning of the trail, even though it was proved on several occassions that this girl had lied. I have been married for 28 years and know my husband so well, everything we did we did together and yet in court they found this strange (perhaps values in our family are higher than a lot of others,) My husband since being sent to jail has been diagnosed with cancer and he is so worried that something will go wrong and he will never get to see his daughter again, this is hurting our family so much. How can juries get it so wrong, my husband never stood a chance in court. My family and i feel so wronged by the so called justice system its just a joke. I was not happy with the barrister he had (legal aid) everything was done last minute, my daughter and i were not even questioned until 8 months after my husband was arrested.
27/5/2013 sisterReading all these is like looking at our lives at the moment.. My brother has been found guilty just this week. We haven't got a clue what to do and where to start he left his wife for a younger women and then had a child within mths his ex's wife's family made allegations of abuse 2 counts was even before my brother knew the family the jury still found him guilty. I honestly don't know what we do or where we go from here. Anyone with any ideas?. All old dates
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