MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE AND WRONGFUL CONVICTION INVESTIGATIONS
A miscarriage of justice happens when an innocent person is tried by a court of law and found guilty of an offence for which they did not commit, in essence it is the failure of the judicial system to administer justice accordingly.
A miscarriage of justice is declared only when the court after an examination of the entire cause including the evidence, is of the opinion that it is reasonably probable that a result more favourable to the appealing party would have been reached in the absence of the error.
The Criminal Procedure Act is the dominating act in the Irish legal system when a convicted person is seeking their guilty verdict overturned and either released from Prison or their name cleared.
In order to have your case reheard under the Criminal Procedure Act you need to show that there is that a new or newly discovered fact is produced which demonstrates that there has been a miscarriage of justice. Furthermore, under the terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, a new fact is a fact known to the convicted person at the time of the trial or appeal proceedings, the significance of which was appreciated by him, where he alleges that there is a reasonable explanation for his failure to adduce evidence of that fact.
In the terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, a newly discovered fact is a fact discovered by or coming to the notice of the convicted person after the relevant appeal proceedings have been finally determined or a fact whose significance was not appreciated by the convicted person or his advisors during the trial or appeal proceedings.
The onus of proving that a miscarriage of justice has taken place is firmly on the convicted person, they must show on a balance of probabilities that there has in fact been a miscarriage of justice.
Section 3(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act is important in the decision which pertains to the conviction and it provides that on the hearing of an appeal against conviction by the Court of Criminal Appeal (C.C.A.) the CCA may:
(a) affirm the conviction (and may do so, notwithstanding that it is of opinion that a point raised in the appeal might be decided in favour of the appellant, if it considers that no miscarriage of justice has actually occurred), or
(b) quash the conviction and make no further order, or
(c) quash the conviction and order the applicant to be re-tried for the offence, or
(d) quash the conviction and, if it appears to the Court that the appellant could have been found guilty of some other offence[, substitute a conviction for the lesser offence and sentence accordingly].
Under Section 7, the Criminal Procedure Act the convicted person can make an application (called a petition) to the Minister for Justice for a pardon by the State under Article 13.6 of the Irish Constitution, in order to make this application for a pardon the convicted person must show that a new or a newly discovered fact has come to light in relation to the validity of the conviction.
The Minister will then instigate his own investigations in relation to the case, he/she can then deduce that either there was or there was not a miscarriage of Justice. If the Minister believes that no miscarriage of justice has taken place or that investigating the application will serve no purpose, he will let the convicted person know this and close the petition.
On the other hand, if the Minister thinks there may have been a miscarriage of Justice he can make a recommendation that the President grant the convicted person a pardon and under section 8 of the Criminal Procedure Act, the minister of Justice then orders an inquiry into the case.
Finally, there is the case of compensation if a person is wrongfully convicted and spends time in detention.
Section 9, of the Criminal Procedures Act deals predominantly with damages, or compensation. This sections comes into play where a conviction has been quashed or where there has been a re-trial and the convicted person has been acquitted, or it has been certified that a newly discovered fact shows there has been a miscarriage of justice and finally where the Minister of Justice is satisfied that a miscarriage of justice has taken place and the convicted person has been given a pardon, at this point the Minister shall pay compensation to the convicted person, or if dead to his legal personal representatives, unless the non-disclosure of the fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to the convicted person.
Some examples of Miscarriage of Justice cases in Ireland. There are cases which have been deemed to be/not to be miscarriages of justice by the Supreme Court and include;
(D.P.P.) v. Pringle: 1995
Pringle was convicted of capital murder and robbery; new evidence found that the conviction was unsafe. The Court of Criminal Appeal found no miscarriage of Justice. Supreme Court found that there was.
(D.P.P.) v. Gannon: 1996
Rape and Assault, Gannon was convicted of the offence and appealed on the grounds of the validity of his identification. The Court of Criminal Appeal found no miscarriage of Justice. The Supreme Court also found no miscarriage of Justice.
(D.P.P.) v. Conmey: 2010
This case revolved around statements being altered in his case, Conmey claimed the existence of these statements was due to the fact that the statements were coerced out of him. The Supreme Court also found that there was in fact a miscarriage of Justice.
(D.P.P) V Hannon: 2009
This case involved the conviction of Mr Michael Hannon for the sexual assault of his then 10 year old neighbour Una Hardester. After the “victim” came forward recanting her accusations which saw Mr Hannon with a 4 year suspended sentence and lodgment on the sex offender register, Mr Hannon moved to have his conviction deemed a miscarriage of justice. this was obtained under S2 and he was issued with a certificate of miscarriage of justice.
(D. P. P) V Shortt
Mr Shortt was accused charged and sentenced for allowing drugs to be sold from his nightclub, this man served three years in prison before he was able to secure an appeal whereby it was deemed that the accused was a victim of Garda corruption and his conviction was overturned, . After successfully appealing his claim for damages to the Supreme Court Mr. Shortt was awarded €4,623,871.00. who successfully brought a State claim under”(2) A person to whom sub-section (1) relates shall have the option of applying for compensation or of instituting an action for damages arising out of the conviction.”, to date he is the only victim of miscarriage of justice in Ireland to have received compensation.
Subsection 4 provides that the compensation shall be of such amount as may be determined by the Minister for Justice. The Minister has not exercise this power to date and in 2009, he refused to make a determination on the amount of compensation that should be paid to Nora Wall, the former nun who was convicted in 2005 of rape and sentenced to life imprisonment, even though he had acknowledging that it was a matter to be dealt with under section 9.
On a negative note:
Unfortunately Section 9 does not specify what a reasonable time is or that the Minister must pay compensation in a reasonable time, therefore up to 20 years later some victims are still awaiting compensation or even cases to determine the level of compensation.
An on a final note, section 29 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924 which regulates the right of appeal from The Court of Criminal Appeal. to the Supreme Court. It states in essence that in order for there to be an appeal from The Court of Criminal Appeal to the Supreme Court, The Court of Criminal Appeal or the Attorney General have to certify that a case involves “a point of law of exceptional public importance and that it is desirable in the public interest that an appeal should be taken to the Supreme Court, in which case an appeal may be brought to the Supreme Court, the decision of which shall be final and conclusive.”
If you have been a victim of miscarriage of justice and you need help to compile your evidence and to bring new facts to light then send me an email so I can help you to expedite your release and claim compensation.