Miscarriages of Justice, HMPs, Criminal Justice and Custodial Care
Britain is often described as having a legal system that provides justice for all - through the courts to HMPs and custodial care. What is less often covered, is the injustices and flaws that allow criminals to continue terrorising their community — stemming from blatant wrongful convictions and the lack of support for the victims of injustice.
According to a quarterly report from Gov.UK published in March of this year, 87% of cases tried in the Crown Court and 95% of cases in Magistrates Court were convicted. Around 3500 of the convictions branching from the Crown Court were later quashed by a higher appellate division. This perfectly captures the lack of review that lower courts take when dealing with cases, almost convicting without a conscious review of the case facts. Not only have these convictions been quashed—an average 770 people are released from prison each year— the changes in policy from the coalition government 4 years ago also deny exonerees any form of compensation for the suffering they faced as a result of the system’s mistake. So, it’s hard not to form the impression that the current government has no real remorse for the stripping of an individual’s liberty.
There is more risk attached than ever before, as the length of custodial sentences has grown larger over the past 10 years according to the report from Gov.UK: in 2008 the average length was 12.4 months, it’s now 15. This means that a wrongfully convicted individual will spend more time in prison for a crime they did not commit.
In the case of a man named Derek Bentley, it was not only his liberty he lost but his life. This tragedy could’ve been prevented by simply allowing a leave on the execution pending further investigation. Bentley was charged as a party to the murder of a police officer by a sixteen-year-old boy (Christopher Craig) through a joint enterprise. Craig was the one who pulled the trigger but as he was too young, he couldn’t be convicted of his crime. The jury convicted based on the prosecution’s manipulation of the ambiguous order that Bentley gave to Craig of “Let Him Have It” which Bentley suggested meant to give them the gun. In 1998, his conviction was overturned meaning that his death was nothing more than an unnecessary death that haunts both the family of Derek Bentley and the British judicial system.
Liberty is the most important right that we possess, it allows us access to the best quality of services and the right to speak our minds. However, if the reckless convictions of the legal system continue, freedom could be stolen from us for a crime we didn’t commit.
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