Friday, March 28, 2008



There are six (6) major cases that highlighted the cases of miscarriage of justice. These cases are examined briefly as follows:
i) In Guildford Four: the four defendants had been convicted in 19976 of murder by causing an explosion in public house (pub) in Guildford. The test on police documents undermined the evidence of police officers that the crucial interviews were recorded contemporaneously, since the hand-written notes had been evidently written after the typed records of the interviews.
ii) In the case of Maguire Seven: the defendants, most of whom were members of the Maguire Family had been convicted in 1976 of an offence of possessing explosive substances that was linked by the prosecution of bombings in London and Guildford. Their convictions were quashed in 1992 on the ground that the prosecution had failed to reveal to the defence certain scientific evidence which amounted to material irregularity. Scientific evidence left open the possibility that the traces of nitro-glycerine (NG) found on the defendant and in their house came from an innocent source, which rendered the verdicts unsafe and unsatisfactory. The defendant had spent some 13 years in prison and one of them had died there.
iii) The Birmingham six were convicted in 1975 of murder by causing explosion in a public in Birmingham. The defendant had maintained from the outset that they were beaten and that the so called confessions were false. Electrostatic analysis (ESDA) revealed that the alleged interview could not have been written contemporaneously. Forensic Science Services findings that the traces of NG could have come from innocent contamination or even smoking had not been disclosed to the defence or the trial court. The crown prosecution recommended prosecution but the judge stayed prosecution on ground that the publicity would make a fair trial impossible
iv) In M62 bombing, Judith Ward was convicted in 1974 of murder and causing explosion. She did not appeal. In 1992 CA quashed her conviction on the ground that it was not disclosed that the results of the tests were favourable to her and there were other failure of disclosure by the DPP, the police and prosecution counsel. The defendant has a form of personality disorder which rendered her confession unreliable. Ward had been in prison for 18 years.
v) Tottenham Three, the defendant convicted in 1986 of murder of a police officer during disturbances at Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham. In 1991 CA quashed her conviction on the ground that it ESDA test revealed that the notes of the interview shoed that some parts of the alleged records had been written at different times. It was not disclosed that the result of the tests were favourable to her and there were other failure of disclosure by the DPP, the police and prosecution counsel
vi) Cardiff Three were convicted in 1990 of murder of Cardiff prostitute. CA quashed their conviction on the ground that the tenure and length of police interview were so long that they should be excluded from evidence.

Common features in the cases appeared to be pre-trial concoction of evidence by forensic scientists, non-disclosure of evidence by forensic scientist and non-disclosure by the prosecution of evidence that would be helpful to the defence, oppressive conduct by police during questioning, with or without actual violence. These faults have implications for the rules on confessions and the control on police investigations, and for the ethics of the police, forensic scientist and prosecution lawyers.

Suspects in Confait, an earlier famous miscarriage of justice case (1972), which had resulted in a Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, the Philips Report), confessed to a crime that they did not commit. There are also problems with confession evidence in the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and the Tottenham Three suspects were in detention isolated, the police have considerable power over suspects, they are able to control the surrounding and reward co-operation. Questioning can be repetitive and forceful: it need not stop because the suspect remains silent or denies the offence. It has been argued by psychologist that almost anyone will make a false confession if subjected to enough pressure

Gudjonsson and Mackeith (1988) presented a number of case studies where Police questioning did not involve threats of violence and draw the conclusion that false confessions are not confined to the mentally handicapped or the mentally ill.

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