JUSTICE intervened by way of written submissions in the UK Supreme Court in this case concerning the duty upon public authorities to disclose material to a convicted person who is investigating a claim of miscarriage of justice. Judgment was handed down on 13 June 2014.
The appellant’s solicitors sought access to DNA evidence in order for advanced scientific testing to take place that was not available at trial, but were refused. The Divisional Court held that there was no duty of disclosure and interpreted the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Disclosure as requiring a person to show that the evidence will materially cast doubt on the safety of the conviction.
JUSTICE conducted miscarriage of justice cases for over thirty years and obtaining access to exhibits retained by the police or other bodies was often vital to prove a conviction unsafe. We were concerned that if the position remains the same, it may risk miscarriages of justice, with only the Criminal Cases Review Commission left to offer assistance. While the body has extensive investigatory powers, its resources and review powers are limited, and it does not act on behalf of the convicted person as an instructed solicitor does.
Whilst the UK Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the facts, it did clarify that a duty of post-conviction disclosure exists in circumstances wider than the High Court had previously held. The Court found this duty to arise in two ways: firstly, where material comes to light that casts doubt upon the safety of the conviction, unless there is good reason not to disclose; and secondly, if there exists a real prospect that further enquiry will reveal something that may affect the safety of the conviction.
Read JUSTICE’s statement in this case.
Read the Statement of Innocence Network UK (INUK).
Read the Statement of Criminal Appeal Lawyers Association (CALA).