Readers of these blogs may have noticed that I have not posted anything new for some time.
I have not been idle. I have been away for four days on my first ever visit to the Somme battlefields in their centenary year (oh, the cruelty of the loss of all those young lives), and I have also been studying in depth the trial transcripts of some of the cases about which I have been writing.
But it is now time to tell another heart-rending story. As always, I have no means of knowing whether the trial reached a just result, but it is a good illustration of how much is at stake in these cases, and how watchful we must be over any efforts at modernising our court processes which may make it more difficult for the jury to ascertain where the truth lies when so much is at stake in terms of people’s health and happiness.
As usual, I have anonymized the people involved.
In July 2015, my partner was arrested & charged with a false accusation of sexual activity motivated, we believe, by revenge. The case came to trial a year later. All through the lead up to the trial, we believed that truth would out, justice would prevail & the British justice system would see that the correct verdict would be reached, “Not guilty”. How wrong we were.
We now realise that there is no such thing as a fair trial, it is just one person’s word against another, no evidence or corroboration needed and indeed anything that did not support the allegation was explained as the accuser making an error due to the trauma of the event. The accuser was deemed a vulnerable person, appeared via video link & had very limited, if any, cross examination.
The accusation came at a time when our child X had just finished a long period of hospital treatment for a very serious disease and we were also nursing X’s mother through dementia and cancer. She passed away in February 2016 and was the only person who could have spoken as a witness for my partner & also given evidence against the accuser.
My partner was sentenced to 11 years & is currently in prison over 250 miles from home. X has not seen Daddy now for 7 weeks – he is a devoted father and was X’s main carer during the hospital treatment. X is already undergoing counselling to alleviate Post Traumatic Stress as a result of the diagnosis & treatment with its awful side effects. I have not yet had the strength to tell X the truth about why Daddy is away. He was the income earner so we now have no household income – I cannot claim any benefits bar child tax credit despite paying into the ‘system’ for over 31 years.
We are desperately looking for an Appeal and have now instructed a new legal team but we know it is hard to find new evidence for a crime that wasn’t actually committed.
In the meantime, somehow we get through a day at a time – all of us sentenced for something that never happened. The real crime is what has been done to our family.
Thank you for taking the time to read this & for speaking out against the crazy world we are now living in. Miscarriages of justice are more common than people realise or want to believe.
Some of the research studies I have been reading go a long way to explain why the criminal justice process is finding some of these cases so very difficult to handle.
In my long professional career as barrister and judge I was very often involved in personal injury litigation. The hardest cases of all were those in which the claimant asserted that he/she had been suffering constant pain since a traumatic accident, but after a few months the orthopaedic surgeons could not identify any continuing physical cause. The answer lay elsewhere. One had to seek it in the world of the neurologists and the psychologists. To many workaday personal injury practitioners I was tempted to say, like Hamlet:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
I was saddened when I see that one desperately unhappy victim of an alleged injustice quoted an extra-judicial saying attributed to Lord Denning in his very old age as if it was representative of what modern judges think today:
It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned.
It is not. It is wholly wrong that any innocent man – or woman – should be in jail, and every effort must be made to prevent this from happening. This story says it all.