THE INNOCENT’S CHARTER
by Jacques More
In my letter of 19th February 2012 to David Cameron the UK Prime Minister I stated “I am writing to ‘speak into’ the issue of miscarriages of justice and the paucity of safeguards to prevent them within our current justice system. The issue is so dire that we have a regular input of non guilty persons in our prisons. It is hard to quantify, but in my limited personal experience it amounts to about 8% of our convicted prisoners.”
Here follows what I am calling an “Innocent’s Charter”: a list of changes required in the practise of the UK’s current Justice System to prevent the innocent from being convicted as criminals and sentenced accordingly.
CONDITION for CHARGES TO BE MADE VOID AUTOMATICALLY
A charge should be automatically declared void if witnesses mentioned by the accused to the Police have not been questioned or obtained a statement from: the appropriate questions suggested asked: the full side of the accused investigated.
This is part and parcel of the Police’s responsibility – to act with impartiality and NOT (just) as officers for the prosecution – The idea or argument rife among Police detectives that the Defendant can bring all this to court is invalid in that it is only the Police who have the power and authority to investigate and question. In fact, it is a legal duty – BUT where is the oversight? – on the Police to pursue reasonable lines of enquiry. Such a recognition of lack of enquiry made by a solicitor and presented to a magistrates court or to the CPS should automatically declare void any existing charges made. The criteria for such recognition needs to be made simple and straightforward, so it is undisputable such as a named person as found not part of the prosecution papers handed over to the defendant’s solicitors for example or, missing parts to statements made to the Police which were clearly mentioned by the Defendant prior to charge.
This will also have the effect of the CPS being careful to fully hear the interview tapes and not rely on the regular incomplete and inaccurate transcripts provided by the Police as now: and ensure all possible relevant truth has been uncovered to see if a charge should be pursued.
NO UNTRAINED PERSONS IN LAW TO MAKE DECISIONS RELATING TO CRIMINAL CASES
Criminal case involvement in Magistrates court should no longer occur without Legal Trained Persons.
Justices of the Peace also known as Magistrates are not trained in law and though their oath of office involves adhering to the statutes of the land, the regular practise is contradictory to the law.
No Magistrates Court should hold a criminal trial or bail related hearing or case management without a legal trained person among the Bench: no untrained person in law should make decisions relating to a criminal charge. Too many incidents of magistrates acting on what they felt and contrary to law – or even common sense – are evident in their regular practise.
FURTHER RULES FOR PREVENTING REMAND
The placing on remand of defendants who are on Legal Aid who, by incarceration, have then no access to their paperwork or ability to provide access to their solicitors of such, with no record of previous breach of bail conditions, should automatically be granted bail. There can be no fair trial without access to the necessary evidence to prepare for trial.
Under this new rule, if this involves a person who has breached previous bail conditions, then within understandable accompaniment in the gathering of said paperwork a reasonable period should be automatically given prior to remand for this purpose.
A training programme and instruction should be provided that all involved in criminal detective work obtain refresher courses and also in Police Colleges be instructed in methods to identify the characteristics and thus recognise innocents and persons without guile.
There should be a normal practise for the Police to request interviews without arresting people.
In view of the common and regular practise of arresting people and the stigma and frequent misunderstanding that the word “arrest” brings, and that practise only for the initial purpose of obtaining information, there should thereby be a serious reduction in arresting people and placing them on Police bail just to interview them.
Any letter or post sent from the Police, at any time, should be posted 1st class no later than 24 hours from the date of the letter. Failure to do so is to legally recognise the date of postmark on the envelope as the effective date of the letter. A system of franking “proof” be involved in all Police correspondence that demonstrates the sending within 24 hours. It is a regular practise by the Police to send letters, but have these actually dated many days or more earlier than the actual sent calendar date: thus giving the appearance of guilt, if it is a warning letter or, inability for defendants to prepare a response if it involves a decision reached that needs appealing. All contacts with the Police in response to letters should be properly recorded: telephone calls following warning letters that have been received late, informing Officers of events prior to receipt and following date of letter, all require record.
The Independent Police Complaint Commission is the body that initially deals with complaints about the Police. The rules in place give the right for the Police Force in question to request for a dispensation for any complaint that related to a matter more than 12 months old. This means that complaint will automatically not be dealt with if not made relating to a matter more than 12 months old. There should be an automatic refusal of such "dispensation" when the Police Force in question is shown to have been corresponded with about the matter and the time of the clock for any 12 months period should begin from the end of those communications. Equally, no dispensation should occur if the complaint has the potential of involving a criminal act on the part of any Officer.
It is incomprehensible that there should be one law or rule for the general population whereby a crime committed has no time limitation of investigation and another for Police Officers!
It is also ludicrous if a complaint involves a greater period than 12 months that a dispensing means any initial Officers who should be investigated and begun the issues involved do not get attention, when later Officers, who then are held to account would never have had to, had the first Officers done their job properly in the 1st place.
Jesus taught - and I speak as a Christian - that any thing wrong done by another is best handled first one to one before involving others. I did this in my writing to the Croydon Borough Commander and the Met, but they refused to face up to the mistakes they had made and denied them instead - in spite of the investigating Officer in court at my first trial openly confessing the opposite of what they were now saying: they did not investigate what I had mentioned at interview - so that any correspondence and communication made to rectify a previous matter should be automatically added to extend the 12 months "rule". This will in effect cause the Police to take more seriously their communications with the public as it will make them more accountable.
Clerks of the Court should be penalised for making comments that interfere or hinder in a trial. Their interjection should be limited to statements that do not prevent a fair trial from occurring. An automatic record of all interjections would enable such a position.
In the modern era of audio recording, with sufficient redundancy also in place, any criminal trial should be a place of record: the Magistrates Court being a place where such things are not recorded at present: Statements made in a Magistrates Court do not automatically permit repeating at much later time at a higher Court, so any record thereby can only assist the discovery of the truth and fair justice.
A system of complaint or reporting should be put in place whereby arguments and thoughts shared by the Defendant with the Barrister which were ignored or not used/prepared for, whilst it was evident that in court these were needed: This helps counteract the regular “full of themselves/know it all” penchant of barristers and help them concentrate on really listening.
Any Defendant mentioned to the Press by the Police should require upon the Press to provide the opportunity of reply to the Defendant: to obtain defence arguments or the side of the story of the defendant irrespective of the Court event. Too many innocents are named or portrayed in the press as potential or actual criminals when their side of the story is not heard at all! Too many times the Police image of doing their job thus occurs in the media when the opposite is true! Any failure to obtain or provide an opportunity to respond should require an editor to add a disclaimer line in the story to that effect.
A system of record without blame needs to be established with the Legal Services Commission – the people who operate Legal Aid funding to Solicitors – whereby instructions of defendants to solicitors which have not been acted upon and which were reasonably expected to assist defence can be reported. This record to be noted for legal aid/licence considerations: if a pattern emerges of regular reporting about a particular solicitor, then understandably an investigation into the practises of that solicitor prior to a possible loss of licence can then occur: A type of early warning by such record practise: Solicitors with Legal Aid clients to be provided a prepared pamphlet and thus avail them with the opportunity to write to the LSC.
Ministerial or Other Oversight
Since the Justice System in place is an adversarial system, then it is illogical for the innocent to not be represented at the highest level to ensure ongoing practises are thoroughly balanced and egalitarian. For prosecution the oversight is right up to the Attorney General, so where is the oversight for the Innocents?
I understand this may take some thinking through, but there are insufficient safeguards presently to prevent innocent persons regularly being convicted and incarcerated.
17TH May 2012 the Court of appeals quashed the conviction of Sam Hallam due to a miscarriage of justice. This is great news, but little comfort, in that Sam’s father took his life whist his son was in prison. Now Her Majesty’s Prison Service is a place where a regular higher proportion of suicides take place than anywhere else. Suicide is the leading cause of deaths in prisons. Amongst women it is up to 20 times more frequent than in similar ages in the general population. There are those who succumb to despair and lose hope and there are those who feel shamed: all contributory factors. The very element of the innocent in the midst does not engender confidence in the “system”. The Police are seen as dishonest and magistrates as hopeless to judge fairly… This may seem a simplistic observation, but can it be said that the perception of the justice system’s lack of fairness has no part to play in suicides?