Wrongful Convictions and Innocence Projects in the UK: Help, Hope and Education

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At the 2004 Solicitors’ Pro Bono Group Awards, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, outlined the twin aims of pro bono work in England and Wales as ‘help and hope’. Pro bono work exists, he stated, to ‘help’ clients whose legal needs are not being met. It gives them ‘hope’, he said, that they may achieve justice in their cases. Lord Goldsmith went on to say that the greatest benefit to students involved in pro bono work in university student law clinics is that they learn about ‘law in action’, translating the law in books to the realities of law in practice, providing insight to the legal world into which law students will soon be a part. Against this background, this article presents a case for the widespread establishment of innocence projects within universities in the United Kingdom (UK) to assist alleged innocent victims of wrongful conviction. It argues that innocence projects are necessary because significant gaps exist in the legal provisions available to innocent victims who require help and hope in overturning their wrongful convictions, gaps generally considered to be accounted for. Furthermore, there are considerable educational benefits associated with the study of ‘justice in error’, adding valuable insight and experience into the law curriculum. In so doing, it, firstly, distinguishes between miscarriages of justice and the wrongful conviction of the innocent. It, then, considers the structures of criminal trials and appeals to underline the inevitability of the wrongful conviction of the innocent and the inability of the existing appeal provisions to guarantee that innocent victims of wrongful conviction will overturn their convictions. It shows that a major consequence of the decision by the organisation JUSTICE to end its concern with the wrongful conviction of the innocent when the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was established is a shift of a concern about the wrongful conviction of the innocent to a more legally-orientated concern with miscarriages of justice by the groups and organisations that attempt to redress the problem. It identifies the general omission of the unmet legal needs of innocent victims of wrongful convictions by the pro bono student law clinic movement. It considers the innovative University of Bristol Innocence Project in terms of its promise to provide help and hope to innocent victims of wrongful conviction, and the educational benefits that student involvement in innocence projects can provide.
Translated title of the contributionWrongful Convictions and Innocence Projects in the UK: Help, Hope and Education
Original languageEnglish
JournalWeb Journal of Current Legal Issues
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Publisher: University of Newcastle upon Tyne


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