A fair trial ? Do we get one?

Are the cards stacked against us, or are we orchestrators of our own demise?

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   (picture: Royal Courts of Justice, London)

 by Róisín Pitman                                                                                                                                                                               Criminology & Psychology undergraduate

Expectations, as a defendant, and what sometimes transpires, is often at odds with a ‘fair trial’. The rule of law requires the Courts to be seen to be fair and, having heard evidence from the prosecution and defence, a jury should make a fair and unbiased decision on the evidence presented (Mehigan, 2019, p.52).

In many cases, lies, omissions, misdirection’s and decisions made by state institutions, such as the police and criminal justice system (CJS) may suggest we do not always have the fair trial we deserve.

 

Exploring ALL the evidence

A Court trial should expect that the judge and jury remain impartial and both prosecution and defence evidence be heard. The process is there to test ALL evidence presented (Mehigan, 2019, p.55).

What happens when it is flawed?

We look at two cases where a fair trial was unlikely to happen, due to either a flawed process (Liam Allan; falsely accused of rape) or a defendant’s own actions (Judith Ward; falsely confessing to be an IRA bomber).

 

The case of Liam Allan – falsely accused of rape  

Days before twenty-two-year-old Liam Allan stood trial for rape, it was discovered that only a small portion of text messages between him and the ‘victim’ had been entered into evidence, in such a way that it fully, and with bias, supported the prosecution’s decision to proceed with the case (Osborne, 2018).

However, a full disclosure of the entire text exchange showed that the sex was consensual, and it was only later that the ‘victim’ decided to report the ‘rape’. The case was thrown out.

A later enquiry suggested that there had been no deliberate wrong-doing by the police or the CJS. This DID however, lead to the Metropolitan Police reviewing decisions on six hundred rape cases.

 

False confessions and fantasists

What if the defendant, courting notoriety, admits to a crime they did not commit?

Judith Ward was a mentally unstable fantasist with no Irish connections or IRA affiliations, as she had intimated. She admitted to several UK mainland bombings in the 1970’s, including the M62 coach bombing, in 1974, which killed eleven, mostly military, personnel (Campbell, 1991), even though the IRA denied that she was guilty or even known to them.

Ward faced oppressive police interviews, repeatedly moved locations and was sleep deprived before she capitulated and signed a false confession (May, 2017). She was actually one hundred and fifty miles away at the time of the motorway bombing.

The Court accepted her false confession and imprisoned her. She was finally released in 1992.

 

As technology improves, does this mean that we will get less miscarriages of justice?

The courts are experiencing problems understanding new methods and are struggling with the speed and complexity of technological change (Mehigan, 2019, p.70).

With the current reduction in funding to legal services in the UK, it is more likely that there will be further miscarriages of justice where previously a fair trial was the least that you were entitled to.

 

References

Campbell, D. (1991) ‘IRA groupie jailed for coach bomb, sought folklore fame’, ‘Guardian’, 22 March [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2009/apr/30/ira-coach-bomb (Accessed 14 March 2020).

May, P. (2017) ‘Buried alive: the case of Judy Ward 25 years on’, ‘The Justice Gap’, 11 May [Blog]. Available at https://www.thejusticegap.com/buried-alive-case-judy-ward-25-years/ (Accessed 14 March 2020).

Mehigan, J. (2019) ‘The prosecution on trial’ in Downes, J., Kent, G., Mooney, G., Nightingale, A. and Scott, D. (eds) ‘Introduction to Criminology 2’, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp.51-74.

Osborne, S. (2018) ‘Liam Allan: Met Police apologise to 22-year-old man falsely accused of rape after failing to disclose crucial text messages’, ‘Independent’, 30 January [Online]. Available at https://www.independant.co.uk/news/uk/crime/liam-allan-met-police-rape-accusation-false-evidence-disclosure-arrest-mistake-detectives-a8184916.html. (Accessed 14 March 2020).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Protection & Awareness should be included as part of any Wellbeing Strategy !

Firstly; a quick apology. The Urban Warrior Princess has been a bit pre-occupied of late and I have been neglectful of my blog while concentrating on my first and second module of a university degree course at the tender age of fifty-seven.  Under the watchful and helpful eye of the Open University, I have signed up for a BA (Hons) in Criminology and Psychology. It has taken me a good eight months to get used to the study regime and the ability to time manage my workload.  So now let’s get down to the subject matter of this post;

PERSONAL PROTECTION AND AWARENESS SHOULD BE INCLUDED AS PART OF ANY WELLBEING STRATEGY.

Everywhere you look, there are references, adverts and people promoting health, fitness and wellness strategies. Whether it is on mainstream television, online, celebrity fitness personalities, public and private gyms – you cannot fail to have been aware of the promotion of fit and healthy lifestyles.

Obesity is now more commonplace in the British Isles than ever before and the diet industry is a multi-billion pound behemoth. That industry relies on a person using a particular weight loss formula for a limited period of time in which to lose a set amount of weight before they stop – hail their fantastic new weight loss and……..then  return to old eating habits that were the cause of their weight problem to start with. It is a vicious cycle and I have known many people who have tried many different diet regimes over the years and they yo-yo; they lose weight – they gain weight – they lose weight – they gain etc etc. This is what keeps the diet industry healthy but the rest of us, unhealthy. What is needed is not a diet but a

COMPLETE CHANGE OF MINDSET

Don’t be a slave to food and the diet industry; change your mindset and change your relationship with food. Take regular exercise and, as well as nourishing the body properly, you need to regularly nourish the mind.

 

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A good healthy food intake does not have to be bland and boring but you should seek to take into your body the right nutrients and food choices that will better suit both your metabolism and the goals that you are setting for yourself. Once you have chosen a good food regime, don’t do it over a limited period of time; keep to it.  Some faddy diets aim to cut out certain food groups entirely, but this can be detrimental to your body in the long term. Totally cutting out carbohydrates, for example, as some diets claim, is actually impossible as there are carbs in all foods in varying percentages. You need a good balance of fats, protein and carbohydrates for your body to work to its optimum level. You also need to remember to hydrate your body throughout each and every day; taking in at least two litres of water a day is the recommended amount by many Doctors but it can vary. I personally drink three litres a day and only two cups of coffee. But I am not here specifically to talk about food; that is not my area of specialisation, which I will come to shortly.

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Regular exercise is also a priority. Not everyone is a sports and fitness fanatic but you do not have to be. Regular exercise can mean anything physical three to four times a week, such as walking, jogging; even walking the dog gets you out into the fresh air and less obviously out in to the world with other people. Do not isolate yourselves*

*Please note that the above was written before the Covid-19 virus struck the world and currently I would urge you all to follow the guidelines given by health professionals about self isolating and social distancing.

Wellbeing appears to be the buzzword for health at the moment. Many people go to a Doctor to check their weight, blood pressure, health and other related issues, but there are places out there now, that offer these services as part of an overall wellbeing, health and fitness package. I personally tend to only go to my General Practitioner when I have a medical symptom or clinical problem that needs to be identified and treated. If I want to have a general body M.O.T. and maintenance regime, I will go to my gym and wellbeing centre.

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Now to my own area of specialisation;

SELF PROTECTION & AWARENESS

I have been in love with fitness and sport from a very early age and was extremely lucky to attend schools that positively promoted a myriad of sports and fitness opportunities. This continued after I left education and entered the work place.

In February this year, I will have been studying the Japanese martial art of Aikido for forty years. I have been a teacher for thirty-three of them.  I  was a police officer for over a decade and alongside Aikido, I teach Control and Restraint for Police Officers, Conflict Management and Physical Intervention in the Security Industry, Self Defence and Self Protection and Awareness for Women and Vulnerable Adults and training for door security supervisors (UK and Jersey).

My belief is that, if any gym and wellbeing centre wants to have the overall wellbeing package; the complete formula, they should consider a self protection and awareness offering.

This offering could be in the shape of regular seminars on various self protection and awareness subjects, an integrated self defence/fitness class module, dedicated and strategically placed short or longer self defence classes (eg. six, eight or ten week slots) or a combination of all of the above.

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