‘Gobsmacked’, some said. Others were ‘Stunned’, writes Julie Price. But whatever the language of choice for miscarriage of justice observers, the common reaction to Simon Hall’s confession last month was: ‘We didn’t see that coming.’

Setting aside any questions (and there are many) as to the circumstances surrounding his confession after maintaining innocence for 12 years, this turn of events will not have helped the cases of genuine victims of wrongful conviction, as suggested in early reactions from the ‘no smoke without fire’ brigade.

Julie Price
  • Julie Price is director of Cardiff Law School’s Innocence Project and  head of Pro Bono.

The UK’s university innocence project world may now take stock, and try to assess how it should manage any consequential damage to the credibility of our daily operations.

When the flagship hits the rocks
There is no doubt that the Simon Hall case was considered a flagship of the UK’s university innocence project movement, which has developed apace since the first project at Bristol in 2005, closely followed by Leeds and Cardiff. It has possibly reached its peak of between 25-30 projects operating with varying degrees of activity at universities in England, Scotland and Wales, with new ones emerging and earlier projects closing along the way.

Those of us working in this most difficult of pro bono/clinical legal education fields have closely followed the Simon Hall case since the last ever episode of BBC’s Rough Justice filmed Bristol University students working on the case with Hall’s then solicitor, criminal appeals stalwart, Campbell Malone.

Publicity
Hall’s case was played out on a very public stage. It was different to most others partly because of the ferocity of the campaign and its soap opera qualities. There were family feuds. One Stephanie (Bon) created a Justice4Simon website, facilitated the involvement of the BBC and worked relentlessly giving vital early support, only to be replaced by another Stephanie, who married Hall in prison. Stephanie Hall argued with many.

But the loyal wife’s dogged determination led to the CCRC apparently bowing to pressure and giving her regular updates on their work, a service that evaded others conducting cases more quietly.

As well as press releases from Bristol University and its related Innocence Network UK (INUK), there was other regular web activity, with vitriolic outpourings by rival forum members using pseudonyms, being enthralled and appalled in equal measure by the slanging matches that were played out for all to see.

Hall’s wife uploaded a plethora of letters and documents, suggesting that other named individuals were responsible, and with a poignant ‘Elephant in the Room’ photo reminding us of the dearth of evidence, constantly calling for her innocent husband to be released to avoid perpetuating the ongoing injustice.

The 2011 appeal decision
When Hall’s appeal decision was due in early 2011, we eagerly awaited the anticipated first-ever case involving a university to be overturned by the Court of Appeal. It would be a ‘milestone’ for university innocence projects, the Observer commented. When the conviction was upheld, we were shocked.

That was not because we naively accepted what Bristol University said, but because we had read for ourselves what was in the public domain, often so eloquently and wholly seeming to undermine the evidence against Hall.

Keeping the faith
Despite the 2011 appeal being lost, our collective faith was not. Michael Naughton and Gabe Tan of Bristol University gave passionate interviews to a pro bono online resource, Human Rights TV, condemning the decision. This confidence in the unsafety of the conviction was reinforced to us outside observers when the defence fibres expert wrote a powerful letter to the Court of Appeal challenging the Court’s understanding of his evidence. Bristol University’s press release urged that Simon Hall’s conviction ‘cannot stand’.

With hindsight, there was little mainstream public interest in the case outside of Suffolk where the murder occurred. Outside of the small miscarriage of justice community, Private Eye ran pieces, keeping up the pressure.

Wider problems and pressure
There were also difficulties behind the scenes, about which outside observers could only speculate. After the failed appeal, it seemed that Simon Hall had ‘sacked’ his legal team in favour of innocence project representation. If this were true, it would have been an uncomfortable development in the eyes of those of us who consider that the relationship between the practising legal profession and universities is core to the sustainability of innocence projects.

Hall’s supporters routinely reminded Keir Starmer of his words for Rough Justice that: ‘The one crucial link is the fibre evidence. Break this and the case disappears.’

Hall’s wife regularly made changes to the website: information came and went. The pressure on the CCRC was huge.

Fast forward to September 2013. So, one month on from the August 8th news that Simon Hall has confessed to the murder, ‘hoodwinking’ (so say the Daily Mail) the BBC and MPs, where does that leave us, the universities that have invested many years in working on alleged wrongful conviction cases?

The UK innocence project world is still poised, waiting for its first case to be overturned with the help of a university. I don’t say ‘by’ a university because this can probably only be achieved as a result of a collaborative effort embracing pro bono lawyers, experts and journalists. But how far away are we from overturning a conviction, and will it ever happen?

A legend in our own academic backyard only?
What is most striking from newspaper coverage of Simon Hall’s confession is that after eight years of hard slog, university innocence projects still do not seem to feature in the nation’s consciousness. When you are immersed in something so all-consuming, there is a tendency to believe that everyone knows about your work.

I don’t think that university innocence projects have even scratched the itch on the nose of the miscarriage of justice problem, even though they have played an important part in teaching our future lawyers about the iniquities of the criminal justice system.

In newspaper coverage immediately after the confession, none of the pieces in the Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Independent or other local and national newspapers mention the involvement of Bristol University’s innocence project in Hall’s case (the BBC does).

Statistics
Northumbria University’s Student Law Office achieved success in overturning the robbery conviction of Alex Allen in 2001, and subsequently securing compensation for him of £170,000, but this was not through the vehicle of an innocence project.

No UK innocence project has yet been involved in overturning a conviction.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the body charged with looking into possible miscarriages of justice, has statistics on the involvement of innocence projects in submissions to them, with caveats that their data mining is not perfect, and may not be 100% accurate because of the ‘many variables in the way people might describe involvement’ of an innocence project.

Also, the CCRC’s figures do not distinguish between universities involved with the INUK and those that are not. (For the uninitiated, the INUK is a network of universities working under that umbrella, led by Bristol University, with members but no democratic constitution. Most university innocence projects are members of INUK; others have never joined or have left, for example Cardiff, Leeds, Westminster, London Innocence Project. Other universities run criminal appeals clinics that are not called innocence projects, for example Northumbria, Derby, and now Birmingham).

The CCRC’s results show that as at February 2013 there were 60 cases or submissions at the CCRC where the phrase ‘innocence project’ occurs.

  • Of these, there were 18 substantive submissions where the applicant had been represented by an innocence project. This is not 18 different cases, but it includes Responses to Provisional Statements of Reasons.
  • Seven are cases where it seems projects were assisting in some other way short of reviewing or representing.
  • 17 were cases where the CCRC supplied material to a project but no representations had so far followed.
  • Five were where the CCRC suggested that applicants might consider contacting a project.
  • 13 were cases where innocence projects are just mentioned in correspondence in some other way, including two mentions of a USA Innocence Project, a complaint that a project had had a case for three years and then dropped it, a complaint that the applicant could not get a project to help, and a complaint that the applicant had been told that his case meets criteria, but that the project was too busy to take his case.

So, looking more closely at these figures, the bottom line appears to be that of the 18 substantive submissions, 10 of these were from our project at Cardiff Law School (on sixdifferent cases) and four were from Leeds. Neither Cardiff nor Leeds are INUK projects.

Of the INUK universities, three of these submissions were from Bristol (two of which were on the Simon Hall case), and one was from Gloucester.

In addition to these CCRC figures, Bristol succeeded in having a case referred from the Scottish CCRC, and Lancaster University had an appeal heard directly at the Court of Appeal, bypassing the CCRC.

Since these figures were given by the CCRC in February 2013, Sheffield Hallam has also recently submitted a case to the CCRC. Cardiff has made a further two substantive responses to the CCRC, we are on target for submitting another two new cases in the autumn, and we hope soon to take another case directly to the Court of Appeal.

I do not have information for other non-INUK projects but from the CCRC’s figures, it would seem that they have not been involved in making substantive submissions.

This statistical information is not available generally, so if these figures do not tally with others, for example those generated by INUK, then corrections are welcomed.

However, these figures are miniscule in the overall picture of applications to the CCRC. it is fair to conclude that innocence projects are not yet having any real impact outside of their educational remit. By way of historical context, the BBC’s Rough Justice series is credited with overturning the convictions of 18 people in 13 cases over its 25 year existence. The Simon Hall case was the last ever Rough Justice film, and was not typical of its previous investigative content, instead portraying the work of the innocence project students. The penultimate Rough Justice film, about the Barri White & Keith Hyatt case, was responsible for the new evidence which led to their convictions being quashed at the Court of Appeal.  Thanks to Rough Justice, the miscarriage of justice world yesterday welcomed the conviction of Shahidul Ahmed for the murder of Rachel Manning, the crime for which Barri had been wrongly convicted. We should rightly mourn the demise of such investigative journalism programmes and keep the Simon Hall confession in context.

The future?
The wider miscarriage of justice community, including university innocence projects, has other pressing concerns:

  1. Vital opportunities to obtain evidence and documentation post appeal have been seriously hampered following the dismantling of the Forensic Science Service, and the current decision in the case of Kevin Nunn.
  2. Awareness of the iniquity of Joint Enterprise convictions is increasing courtesy of hard campaigning by the voluntary group JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association). Casework organisations have yet only seen the tip of the iceberg of this category of convictions, many of which appear wholly unjust and unjustifiable, but antiquated laws are being used disingenuously to secure convictions in the name of tackling gang culture.
  3. As seen in the debacle following the prosecution of police officers in the Lynnette White murder case, protecting the integrity of the criminal justice system seems to remain a national priority even in the light of the Hillsborough review.
  4. There seems to be an increasing abandonment of the burden of proof in sexual offence cases, particularly historical ones.
  5. Criminal legal aid is being decimated. The inevitable slashing in numbers of criminal appeals practitioners will adversely affect those claiming wrongful conviction, and numbers of miscarriages of justice will increase.
  6. There are increasing numbers of convicted people maintaining innocence on various unofficial ‘waiting lists’ who may never get the chance to have their case looked at properly. There are myriad practical and ethical issues that accompany this sort of scenario.
  7. There is a difference between campaigning and conducting casework, but sometimes lines are blurred. Recent years have seen the emergence of a new breed of ‘casework assistance’ organisations – and therein lies a ticking time bomb. They tend to be run by legally unqualified people who in most cases have a solid interest in miscarriages of justice, and perhaps an academic qualification. Some call themselves a ‘national service’, which is entirely inappropriate, misleading and worrying. The danger is that these are wholly unregulated, probably uninsured, with no quality control, and unlike universities and other funded organisations, are formally accountable to no-one other than the (usually vulnerable) client. A few years ago, a new charity recruited law students and others with promises of financial remuneration. A number of individuals, universities and organisations were taken in. In one particular case precious files were entrusted to that “charity” on the promise of a professional review and assistance, only never to be seen again after the charity folded and one of its founders went off to experience prison life from the inside.
  8. Virtually unheard of in other university real client work, innocence project activity leaves academic staff exposed to the perhaps inevitable but wearying squabbling (and worse) that sadly seems to come with the territory. As well as being humbled by the resilience and goodwill of many victims of miscarriage of justice and their supporters in this small community, I have been disappointed to observe turf wars and jealous guarding of territory. It’s little wonder that those of us who have dedicated years of our lives to this work often feel that we are on a hiding to nothing. Criminal legal aid lawyers are a dying breed. If university colleagues brave enough to take the plunge into these muddy waters become understandably frustrated by logistical problems and lack of progress, topped off by petty wrangling, and choose to move into ‘easier’ pro bono work, that will be a valuable resource lost to the whole miscarriage of justice community in increasingly difficult times. The possibility of this should not be underestimated: most of us are in this because we are committed to helping, but we all have a breaking point.

Given this heavy duty political, cultural and practical context to miscarriage of justice work, it is not viable to be an innocence project tourist. It’s not the sort of work you can dip in and out of if you are a university wanting to set up an exciting new real client project. It carries with it heavy ethical and practical problems, and is not for the faint-hearted.

Heads, parapets and reflection
For me, the saddest consequence of Simon Hall’s confession will be if long-standing, wise, respected supporters of miscarriages of justice work decide that it’s too risky to put their names to a campaign, and instead take a back seat out of the public arena. It’s not easy to stick your head above the parapet: we’ve done that at Cardiff in many respects, and we’ve been on the receiving end of friendly and not-so-friendly fire. But we are still here, largely due to the sterling efforts of my colleague Dr Dennis Eady, and because Cardiff Law School has to date invested in us.

We have learned lessons about publicity. Our educational project, Cardiff Casewatch, planned to chart our six cases on their journey through the CCRC’s system, in real time. That idea was put on the backburner largely for various practical reasons, but we plan to update the webpages to report the ultimate outcome.

Prompted by the credibility issues created by Simon Hall’s confession, perhaps it’s time for universities individually and collectively to evaluate whether the current model of innocence projects is working effectively. It is not, in my opinion. We could look strategically at other possible collaborative alternatives, along the lines of the Inside Justice, the miscarriage of justice investigative unit operated by Louise Shorter at Inside Time, the not-for-profit national newspaper for prisoners. Inside Justice works collaboratively with experts and lawyers and has a pro bonoadvisory panel of eminent experts who conduct cold-case reviews of cases. The unit’s first case has just been submitted out of time to the Court of Appeal and another is under review by the CCRC. As well as facilitating hard-to-find expert advice Inside Justice is also bridging the media gap and working to get publicity for deserving cases and hoping to inspire the next generation of lawyers and experts just as Rough Justice inspired so many.

The Centre for Criminal Appeals is also an attractive idea. Central to its working model isthe need for a qualified lawyer to lead the case, who may access core funding through legal aid even if now at drastically reduced rates. They say, “Prisoners may tell their lawyers things they have not told their wives, or bright-eyed students”. The Centre’s founders also emphasise the need to be able to progress a case “under the radar” arguing that sometimes it may be easier to right a wrongful conviction without the media and campaign groups in constant attendance. The Centre’s test case, which resulted in the quashing of the prisoner’s conviction, is relatively unknown. The CCA recognises from outset that collaboration with campaign groups on strategy, a wider advisory group, and proper core funding is essential. Those elements are essentially absent from our university innocence project movement, which bears no resemblance to that in the USA. The UK version, whilst of admirable intention, has evolved and reacted ad hoc without any democratic underpinning and with no obvious publicity or other strategies; the absence of core funding undoubtedly puts unsustainable pressure on the two individuals who run it.

The future for alleged victims of miscarriages of justice isn’t bright, and universities aren’t going to change that. The fault lies with a problematic criminal appeals system which appears to value protecting the integrity of the system at all costs, even if that means sacrificing some innocents.

University innocence projects should arguably be more transparent in the information they pass to the outside world, within confidentiality constraints. In this way, false expectations can be avoided, even though academic intellectual property and career progression drivers might instead prefer to closet information. We should recognise and reflect upon our shortcomings, reinforce our educational remit, and properly manage the expectations of our clients and students. We should think long and hard about what publicity opportunities are appropriate and which are best passed over despite any inclination to the contrary that any publicity is good publicity: it is not. We need to retain a healthy dose of scepticism but not lose the humanity and fresh eagerness which is the value that our keen young students can supply. We need to have meaningful ethical conversations to discuss at what point we need to close a case, rather than carrying on regardless. We need to work even more collaboratively with colleagues in journalism, forensic science and so on.

A fair number of innocence projects nationally will soon be reaching a crossroads/brick wall stage, after several years of frustrated operation. They will move from the honeymoon period towards despair and helplessness, feeling overwhelmed, realising that upping gear to ‘crusade mode’ is not what they signed up for. So when something happens like the Simon Hall confession, this has the potential to justify and accelerate plans for exodus. Those of us who have invested thousands of hours of our time will naturally feel (at best) disappointment at our cause being undermined by the confession, setting back casework by years, precious time that could have been spent on genuine cases. But how can a worthy case be differentiated from one that will eventually throw up evidence of guilt? The short answer is that it can’t¸ and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. Perhaps guilty prisoners do see universities as a haven for keen young things over whose eyes the wool can easily be pulled: after all, they have nothing to lose (apart from the progression problems of prisoners maintaining innocence, which is another harrowing story). But to say that the BBC and Bristol University were ‘hoodwinked’ is unfairly disparaging. There are many reasons why people maintain innocence, and the Simon Hall confession could have happened to any of us.

Eight years on from the start of innocence projects in the UK, it is difficult to reflect positively upon where we might be in another eight years from now, but this is because of issues far more wide-reaching than Simon Hall’s confession.

In the meantime, may you Rest in Peace, Joan Albert, and others. Please be assured that, as well as potential victims of wrongful conviction, the victims of crime and their loved ones are always at the forefront of our minds.

Profile photo of Julie Price About Julie Price
Professor Julie Price is head of pro bono at Cardiff Law School, and director of Cardiff Law School Innocence Project; Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellow. Julie’s background is as a solicitor and Legal Practice Course tutor. Her voluntary positions include being a founding trustee of the Access to Justice Foundation's Welsh Regional Support Trust, Reaching Justice Wales. She is a steering group member of LawWorks Cymru, and on the advisory group for the Centre for Criminal Appeals and FACT (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers)

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6 Comments

  • DAVID JESSEL September 9, 2013 9:22 am

    What a thoughtful piece. What surprises me is how little media sneering there has been, and I’ve been trying to work out why. My sad conclusion is that it is yet another reflecton of the fact that miscarriages of justice have fallen so far off the public and media radar that we aren’t worth a story even when we get it wrong.
    I don’t think it is right to put that down to the ending of programmes like Rough Justice and Trial and Error – their demise was the consequence of this apathy; the people who commission television these days just don’t ‘get’ these concerns – and if they do, they regard them, as did one head of Channel 4, as ‘rather eighties’. Civics is not top of the list in today’s media world. Maybe it’s because the Irish cases are no longer fresh; maybe it’s because emphasis on the victims of crime leaves less room for the concern over the victims of justice; maybe it’s because the CCRC is deemed to be there to put things right; maybe it’s because Thatcher’s children now run the media playground; maybe people have legitimate, new social, moral or political concerns; maybe because fewer people will have concerns about historic or intrafamilial child sex cases after the odious Savile.
    My CCRC friends tell me that this just shows how ‘unsafety’ rather than innocence should be the criterion. I’ve never bought that. Such a view simply entrenches that bloodless tendency which reduces injustice to the formulaic, tick box exercise so comfortable for lawyers (one extremely grand lawyer believed the CCRC should be ‘the anteroom to the Court of Appeal’) I wanted to refer Simon Hall because I believed (wrongly) that he didn’t do it. I know it’s not very lawyerly, but I’m rather less interested in giving the guilty a get-out-of-jail-free card. Speaking only for myself, I think if I was incapable of imagining the plight of someone (Sally Clark, anyone?) who had lost freedom, family, hope for something he or she had not done…. then I might have gone into advertising instead.
    It is a lesson for INUK that you always have to reserve a part of your brain for the possibility that the person you campaign for just might be guilty. A belief in innocence is vital, but not to the exclusion of key critical faculties. I’d like to hear from Michael Naughton on this.
    So where do we all go from here – especially in a climate where more innocent people are likely to end up in prison? What’s needed is some sort of breakthrough in a whole category of cases; just as matters such as convictions based on identification, duff forensics or confessions made an impact that went beyond individual cases, so, perhaps, getting together behind those who have made the running on something like Shaken Baby Syndrome might be helpful in bringing home the double tragedy of bereavement and injustice. We have a tendency, us lot – and Julie has done us a service by laying it bare – to be proprietorial about our cases; a Jeremy Bamberite may not be on speaking terms with a Susan Mayite , an Eddie Gilfoylite may be mocked by a Brian Parsonsite. If we put our collective weight behind a class or category of miscarriage of justice – and we all know that many babies aren’t killed in the way it’s claimed, but sadly the best our honest defence experts can say is ‘we just don’t know how it happens’ – then this may be a way forward.

  • Bob Moles September 10, 2013 3:30 am

    I was really interested to read the piece by Julie and will be keen to share it around. The comment by David Jessel got me to thinking about the comparisons between what we have done in Australia and how that relates to the work of the UK innocence projects.

    Networked Knowledge was set up in 2000 and since then has been an independent project, not university based, and which conducts research,
    publishing and advocacy in relation to miscarriage of justice issues. Like some
    of the UK projects, we have had a principal case we have worked on – that of
    Henry Keogh.

    Over the years we have attempted to bring his case to the Court of Appeal – the High Court of Australia, the medical board and tribunal (in relation to forensic pathology evidence at his trial) and appeals from those decisions. However, we have always seen our work on his case as part of a broader strategy, to identify systemic errors and to challenge and develop institutional responses to them.

    In our book (Forensic Investigations Irwin Law Toronto 2010) we recommended the establishment of a CCRC in Australia. We put a Bill to the Parliament to that effect and that was referred to a review committee. In our submission to that committee we were able to outline a whole series of cases over the last 30 years which were, in our opinion, seriously deficient. The common cause (picking up on David’s theme) was the work of a forensic pathologist who it was said, was not properly qualified for the task.

    Following the above appeals, and the failure of the petitions for review, we took the matter up with the Human Rights Commission for Australia. We said that the procedural obstacles to substantive review of those cases amounted to a fundamental breach of international human rights obligations. The HRC agreed. They issued a report to the parliamentary committee in which they said that the failures meant that the appeal system, throughout Australia, failed to comply with the international human rights obligation to protect the right to a fair trial, and to ensure that a victim of miscarriage of justice had access to
    appropriate appeal rights.

    The committee (amongst other things) recommended the establishment of a new statutory right of appeal. The government of South Australia took that up, and amended the criminal appeal rights in South Australia to that effect. This was the first substantive amendment to the appeal rights in Australia for 100 years. It was also the first time that there has been any discrepancy in the appeal rights between the various states.

    In the course of the various appeals there have been some very unfortunate decisions by various legal officials. A previous Chief Justice said that where a forensic expert has failed to disclose the exculpatory results of a forensic test, that is not necessarily a breach of that expert’s duties as an expert witness. The CJ failed to provide any citation of authority to support such an obviously erroneous proposition, and also failed to refer to the extensive list of authorities (Australian and UK) which said the exact opposite. A Solicitor-General had briefed an independent forensic expert to review the case, and in his written report, he said that the death had occurred as a result of sickness / accident and did not involve any criminal activity.

    Subsequent to that the SG recommended to the AG that the petition not be
    referred to the Court of Appeal for review. The Medical Board members had concluded that the work in the case was incompetent even when judged by the lowest of standards. They also said that the pathologist concerned had failed to comply with standards set down in 1908. They then went on to decide that he’d not been guilty of any ‘unprofessional conduct’. The CJ didn’t think there was anything wrong in that, although he did set aside the decision for other reasons.

    Now the way has been cleared for those cases to come back on
    appeal for substantive review.

    However, that doesn’t mean that sensible decisions are to be the order of the day. In one case, a person had a report from Bernard Knight (UK) in which he said that the scientific evidence given at this trial was ‘unscientific’ and that the figures which had been given must have been ‘snatched from the air’.

    He has a compelling case for review. However the legal aid authorities said
    that because he had finished his sentence and was not facing the prospect of
    any further period of imprisonment, it was not any longer a matter of public
    interest whether he had been rightly or wrongly convicted. The case is
    particularly tragic because the applicant now suffers from motor neurone
    disease. As to public interest, the death involved the assassination of a high
    profile criminal lawyer in Adelaide. One might have thought that even the
    lawyers would be interested to know if they’d got the wrong person for it.

    We have two cases coming back to the courts. One has received funding from federal funds (because the applicant is aboriginal) and the other is being progressed pro bono. Legal aid has not funded any case under the new appeal right, and in due course we’ll need to look at why that is so.

    My point is a reflection upon the comment by David Jessel. Miscarriage
    of justice cases often reveal systemic problems and whilst progressing the
    individual case, we can also progress the analysis and solution to the systemic
    errors. Over the years, we have published three books, one of which was a
    consideration of the law and miscarriage cases in Australia, Britain and
    Canada. We have been involved in 70 radio and television programs and a
    significant number of academic and media articles. All of these together with
    the legal submissions in the cases, and the submissions and debates in the parliament are available through our web site. Should one of our cases end up in the Simon Hall category, we would naturally feel disappointed, but we would not feel that all was lost because of the balance which we pursue between the
    individual case, the systemic problems and the educational and public
    discussions of all of those issues.

    We have been surprised that so much emphasis has been placed in the UK on persuading the CCRC to refer cases to the Court of Appeal. There are cases from Northern Ireland which indicate that there is a right to approach the court of appeal directly to re-open an appeal. If that does not work then surely there must be avenues to explore whether the failures in this regard amount to a breach of international human rights obligations as we have done in Australia?

    From a distance, it appears that in the UK some elements of the public face of innocence projects have allowed the campaigning to overshadow the research. We have made a clear distinction between the research (and associated publications) the advocacy in courts and the campaigning. We try as much as possible to keep these elements separate.

    The two books on the South Australian cases are available (full text and free of charge) from our web site. Wherever possible, academic articles, media comments, legal submissions, petitions, parliamentary submissions and reports on the various cases are also available at “netk.net.au”.

  • Anonymous September 10, 2013 10:04 am

    As a family member of a terrible miscarriage of justice, the victim being Barry George, convicted of the murder of Jill Dando; the Simon Hall confession is a concern because it is already so difficult for true MOJs to be believed by the public; this confession damages the credibility of all those still fighting for justice.

    But this is just one case. The British Justice System makes many, many more errors when it choses to build its cases around a person, rather than on the actual evidence. One confession is not a comfortable situation for those fighting miscarriages of justice, but is it worse than keeping hundreds of innocents locked up for crimes they did not commit? All of us who choose to stand up for justice need to take this on the chin, and move on…back to those who deserve to have their cases reviewed and quashed.

    Our justice system uses ‘smoke and mirrors’, rather than real honest evidence to convict. The B George case is one…but the parallels with the Barri White/Keith Hyatt conviction are evident; the case was fitted around the defendants, and not around the evidence.

    I eagerly await the government’s response to Barri and Keith’s new claim for compensation. Keith was released at the court of appeal, but Barri went on to re-trial. Does this mean that Keith will be successful but Barri’s claim will not? After all, if the legal view is that the CPS were not wrong to prosecute Barry George, because they had evidence, and he is not a MOJ because he went for re-trial, then poor Barri will face the same prospect…won’t he?

    Lorraine Allen was released by the court of appeals, too. She too was refused compensation, so she took her case to ECHR, and lost…because she did not opt for a re-trial. Barry George DID, and was told this was the reason that he did not qualify. Who can now receive compensation for wrongful conviction?

    Questions to ponder…and yet another battle for all of us, to demand fairness from this unjust system.

    Michelle (Diskin) Bates

  • mathurrinki December 26, 2013 2:43 pm

    All of us who choose to stand up for justice need to take this on the chin, and move on…back to those who deserve to have their cases reviewed and quashed.

  • Steve Sinclair February 24, 2014 5:07 pm

    Now that Simon Hall has apparently taken his own life it is perhaps pertinent to view his “confession” in this new light. I am sure that some will say that his suicide is a certain sign of his anguish over his guilt. I say that, on the contrary, his death may have been through pure despair.
    That despair most likely stemmed from the failure of his final appeal.Where was he to go from there? No more new evidence to rely on…the end of the road.
    His confession was more than likely sparked by the inevitable realisation that those who are deemed IDOM are unlikely to ever be considered for parole. I don’t need to spell out the treatment IDOM prisoners face compared to those who realise their guilty status and play the game to prepare them for release.
    I am not concerned by the kerfuffle over his so called confession. The bald facts of the case are that the conviction of Simon Hall was a miscarriage of justice. There was and still isn’t any evidence on which he should have been convicted. The DPP agreed, yet the court of appeal in 2011 disgracefully usurped the role of the jury by not ordering at the very least a re-trial.
    Any notions that some may hold that British justice is something to behold with respect are being naive in the extreme. If British justice was ever a shining beacon of hope for the many then it has been extinguished for a long long time.
    Bar the confession, there are echo’s here of Gordon Park and the lady in the lake case.
    In addition, as shown in the Victor Nealon case, our whole CJS is in crisis and the CCRC is as culpable as any public body in the prolonging of injustice.

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