One in five decisions by courts unsafe because of ‘misleading evidence’

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap. A new analysis of close to a thousand Court of Appeal cases over the last seven years has found that more than one in five decisions by lower courts (22%) were argued unsafe because they contained misleading evidence. The University College London study, which looked at the transcripts of 996 cases, also revealed that more than three-quarters of successful appeals (76%) were based on reinterpretations of the same materials available in the original trial rather than new information. Scientists Nadine Smit, Ruth Morgan and David Lagnado maintained that when forensic evidence misled judges and juries, it did so because of a misinterpretation of its relevance, probative value or validity. Their paper called on lawyers and expert witnesses to bring more transparency to the relationship between evidence and hypothesis, taking care to avoid ‘an erroneous understanding of the evidential value of evidence’. Belief in a …

New CPS guidance on joint enterprise ‘fails to get to grips’ with problem

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap. New Crown Prosecution Service guidance has ‘completely failed to get to grips’ with joint enterprise, according to campaigners representing prisoners and their families. Following the publication of new principles on how to deal with the controversial common law doctrine back in July, the CPS launched a consultation which closed last week. The campaign group JENGbA (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association) has collated responses including submissions from 17 joint enterprise prisoners and calls on the director of public prosecutions to back their call for a public inquiry. Under joint enterprise, a person on the fringes of a group in which somebody commits murder can receive the same mandatory life sentence as the perpetrator. In February 2016 in the landmark Jogee ruling, the Supreme Court held that the law had taken ‘a wrong turn in 1984‘. The judgment did not end joint enterprise – and the first tranche …

Dexter Dias: ‘Justice is collective therapy’

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap.   Dexter Dias is never more than a few sentences away from a thought experiment. This is one of them: You’re watching a game between two players, Maria and Denise. They can’t see you, but you can see them. You enjoy the competition as they try to outwit each other, some rounds going Maria’s way, others won by Denise. Then, something changes. Out of Denise’s sight, Maria hits a button. The game becomes skewed, and Maria starts to win every round. You watch for a while, as the cheat prospers, and then you’re told you can leave. On the way out, you’re given £10 for your time. You’re then asked if you want to give £2 back to even the game up. Chances are, so the experiments tell us, you’ll hand over the money. ‘That tells us something very important,’ argues Dias. …